Delacroix’s finished painting, which commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, is regarded as one of the most important works of art of the age and now hangs in the Louvre. It was acquired by the museum in 1831 for 3000 francs.
While ink drawings for the painting are known, including at least one in the Met Museum collection in New York depicting the fallen bodies, Christie’s says this example is the only known oil sketch “that fully outlines the intended final composition”.
The work, with its fast and fluid lines, provides an insight into the artist’s creative process, showing how Delacroix worked out the final placement of the figures, including Liberty at the centre and the fallen comrades who populate the primary plane.
As with many of artist’s sketches and preparatory works, it is unsigned.
It will be offered with a £700,000-1m estimate at Christie’s 19th Century European & Orientalist Art auction in London on December 14.
Christie’s head of sale Arne Everwijn said: “The fluidity of the sketch and the use of sharp diagonal lines exemplifies the artistic mastery of Delacroix, portraying the dynamism and movement for which the final composition is known.”