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Hippolyte Delaroche (17 July 1797 – 4 November 1856), commonly known as Paul Delaroche, was a French painter. He was born and died in Paris. Delaroche was born into a wealthy family and was trained by Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros, who then painted life-size histories and had many students.
The first Delaroche picture exhibited was the large Josabeth saving Joas (1822). This exhibition led to his acquaintance with Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix, with whom he became friends. The three of them formed the core of a large group of Parisian historical painters. He visited Italy in 1838 and 1843, when his father-in-law, Horace Vernet, was director of the French Academy in Rome.
Delaroche's studio in Paris was in the Rue Mazarine. His subjects were painted with a firm, solid, smooth surface, which gave an appearance of the highest finish. This texture was the manner of the day and was also found in the works of Vernet, Ary Scheffer, Louis Léopold Robert and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Among his students were British landscape artist Henry Mark Anthony (1817–1886), British history painters Edward Armitage R.A. (1817–1896) and Charles Lucy (1814–1873), and American painter/photographer Alfred L. Boisseau (1823–1901).
Delaroche's paintings, with their straightforward technique and dramatic compositions, became very popular. He applied essentially the same treatment to the characters of distant historical times, the founders of Christianity, and various figures of his own day such as "Napoleon at Fontainebleau," "Napoleon at St Helena," or "Marie Antoinette leaving the Convention after her sentence."
Historical works and accuracy
His dramatic paintings include Strafford Led to Execution, depicting the English Archbishop Laud stretching his arms out of the small high window of his cell to bless Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, as Strafford passes along the corridor to be executed, and the Assassination of the duc de Guise at Blois. Another famous work shows Cardinal Richelieu in a gorgeous barge, preceding the boat carrying Cinq-Mars and De Thou carried to their execution. Other important Delaroche works include The Princes in the Tower and the La Jeune Martyre (showing a young female martyr floating dead on the Tiber).
Delaroche's work was sometimes ahistorical. Cromwell lifting the Coffin-lid and looking at the Body of Charles is based on an urban legend, and The Execution of Lady Jane Grey is represented as taking place in a dungeon, which is badly inaccurate. He tended to care more about dramatic effect than historical truth: see also The King in the Guardroom, where villainous Puritan soldiers blow tobacco smoke in the face of King Charles, and Queen Elizabeth Dying on the Ground.