The Duke of Orleans Showing His Lover
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Eugene Delacroix paints something out of softcore porn literature. Kinda.

This is not Delacroix’s first time at the rodeo. He’s used literature as inspiration for paintings before. The Duke of Orleans Showing His Lover depicts a scene of spousal betrayal, a Duke showing off his prowess, and a husband not fully knowing his wife.

There are three possibilities for what inspired Delacroix to create The Duke of Orleans Showing His Lover:

  1. A 16th century story about the lives of ladies, and how they’re oh so gallant

  2. Another story involving a Duke of Burgundy

  3. A buddy named Soulier

There may have been a literal personal touch to the painting’s inspiration, although Soulier is the least likely inspiration for The Duke of Orleans Showing His Lover. Delacroix had a buddy named Soulier, and the two apparently shared a mistress. Madame Louise Rossignol de Pron had a hell of a time with these fellas under the sheets. Hey man, life experience is creative fodder for any artist.

But it is most likely that the painting’s inspiration came from literature. The Duke of Orleans Showing His Lover is believed to be a scene out of 'Les vies des dames galantes' ('The Lives of the Gallant Ladies'). Pierre de Bourdeille’s novel depicts Louis I, Duke d’Orleans taking the wife of one of his vassals as his mistress. When the vassal enters Louis’ bedchamber, Louis raises the sheet to conceal the mistress’s face from her husband. Oh, what a scene of marital infidelity! Yikes!

This story was first published in 1666, and reprinted in 1822, only a handful of years before Delacroix’s painting was made. But this cheating scene has also been covered by Barante in the 14th century. 'Histoire des ducs de Borgogne' ('History of the Dukes of Burgundy') was republished during Delacroix’s lifetime in 1824 and in it a similar scene occurred, where a Duke concealed the face of his lover, Mariette d Enghein, from her husband.

Of all the scenes in literature Delacroix could have chosen to paint, he chose one hell of a perverse scene. I mean the husband doesn’t even recognize his own wife! Delacroix became skilled in painting popular and raunchy subjects. Why paint an image such as this? Apparently, there’s big cash money for raunchy images. Not a bad reason to paint something so wonderfully melodramatic. Sign me up!



  1. Allard, Sebastien, Come, Fabre, Delacroix, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.
  2. Davis, Ben, “How Delacroix’s Revolutionary Art Was Forged in the Fires of Counterrevolution,” Artnet, October 2, 2018. Accessed 21 July 2019
  3. Interview by, Martin Gayford. "Artists on Art Juliao Sarmento on Eugene Delacroix's the Duke of Orleans Revealing His Lover (1825-26)." The Daily Telegraph, Nov 24, 2001.
  4. O'Donovan, Leo J., SJ. "Review: Eugène Delacroix Exhibit Arrives for the First Time in America." America, Oct 29, 2018, 1-3. Accessed July 28, 2019
  5. Troiso, Alfonso, The Painted Mind: Behavioral Science Reflected in Great Paintings, New York City: Oxford University Press, 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Louis d'Orléans Showing Off His Mistress

Louis d'Orléans Showing Off His Mistress is an 1825–1826 painting produced by the French artist Eugène Delacroix, now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. It shows Louis I, Duke of Orléans, his chamberlain Albert Le Flamenc and Mariette d'Enghien, who was both Le Flamenc's wife and the Duke's mistress. It draws on an episode recounted in both Prosper de Barante's Histoire des ducs de Bourgogne de la maison de Valois and Brantôme's Vie des dames galantes. It shows strong influence from Rubens and Titian as well as from Richard Parkes Bonington, a British artist with whom he actively swapped ideas and sketches between 1825 and 1828.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Louis d'Orléans Showing Off His Mistress.