The present drawing is executed on 'stone paper', or 'lithographic carton', and was used to print the lithograph Le marchand de poisson endormi (Delteil 24) (Fig. 1), of Géricault's English period of 1820-1.
The attribution of the drawing was confirmed by Professor Eitner on the basis of a transparency, and states in a letter from 8 March 1997 that 'it belongs among his experiments with a technique of lithography in which chemically prepared carton was substituted for stone. The method was of interest to Géricault when, preparing for his stay in England (1820-1), he sought a medium both inexpensive and easily transportable.' Unfortunately the stone paper support is fragile and does not allow the production of many prints so Géricault quickly abandoned this technique after executing eight lithographs in stone paper (Delteil 22-8 and Buehler collection; Christie's, London, 15 November 1985, lot 90, illustrated). According to Professor Eitner, 'Géricault's friend, de Musigny, appears to have owned a set of the original cartons, two of which figured in his sale (7-8 March 1845, lots 60-1). Several cartons from this lot then passed to the His de la Salle and the Marcille collections'. Of the eight original cartons only four can now be located:- in a private collection; the Fogg Museum, Cambridge; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and the present one.
Impressions of this plate are relatively rare. One of these was sold in the Buehler sale at Christie's, London, 15 November 1985, lot 87, illustrated. The latter was printed on Whatman paper dating to 1821, during Géricault's second stay in London. Due to the fragility of the support, prints were probably taken from 'stone paper' very soon after its execution. This would exclude Charlet's participation, as suggested by Charlet's biographer, La Combe as Charlet did not accompany Géricault during his second trip in 1821. By then the artists were not on good terms, as a letter by Géricault to Charlet from London on 23 February 1821 suggests. Professor Eitner adds that the 'the graphic handwriting of the drawing seems entirely that of Géricault himself'.
Professor Eitner lists a number of Géricault's drawings related to that composition, the most complete of which is at the Rhode Island School of Design. The latter drawing is of a similar composition to that of the stone paper version, though few of the figures in the background have variations. Géricault studied this composition in more drawings from sketchbooks which are now in various private collections.
We are grateful to Professor Eitner for his help in cataloguing the present drawing.