The Giaour
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Théodore Géricault
French, about 1822 - 1823
Watercolor over graphite underdrawing
8 5/16 x 9 3/8 in.

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His brow was bent, his eye was glazed;
He raised his arm, and fiercely raised,
And sternly shook his hand on high
As doubting to return or fly….

Taken from English Romantic poet Lord Byron's work of 1813, The Giaour: A Turkish Tale, these verses inspired the French Romantic painter Théodore Géricault to make this well-known watercolor. The dramatic story of an Arab Christian living as an infidel within his Muslim homeland tapped the vogue for Orientalism, which stemmed in part from Napoleon's recent campaigns in Egypt and Syria. Géricault's choice of subject matter was also affected by his passion for horses, which he often represented with great sensitivity.

On a visit to England in 1820, Géricault learned the British style of watercolor painting, which emphasized translucent washes that allowed the white of the paper to shine through. After faintly sketching the giaour on the verso of this sheet, he used the translucency of the watercolor to render the Arabian stallion's shining coat and the dramatically lit sky and ground in this finished drawing. The lithograph made after the drawing less effectively expresses the Romantic sense of drama.