Although this impressive sheet was published in Jean Guiffrey’s catalogue of 1924 as a copy of a lost drawing from the Itasse collection,2 there seems to be no reason to doubt its authorship. The sheer quality of the draughtsmanship is readily evident, with the soft and sensitive shading, executed with delicate parallel lines applied over stumped black chalk, typical of the master. Furthermore, a copy is unlikely to show such pentimenti as that which can be seen under the figure’s right arm. Sylvain Laveissière, who has confirmed the attribution of this drawing, points out that such errors of connoisseurship are not uncommon in the catalogue by Guiffrey, whose opinion of Prud’hon’s draughtsmanship seems at times to have proven inaccurate. The present sheet was at one time in the Marbeau collection, which included two other male academies of the same type; all three were exhibited together at the seminal Prud’hon exhibition held in Paris in 1922.3
A large number of Prud’hon’s drawings were executed on a rich blue paper. However, as many of the artist’s drawings were mounted and framed for display, this papier bleuté has often faded to gray, green, brown or beige due to overexposure to light. The paper of the present sheet is exceptional in retaining its original colour and freshness. As Sylvain Laveissière has aptly noted of académies such as this, ‘Prud’hon’s skill as a draftsman found its ultimate expression in these masterful and seductive figures, which display a sensuality far beyond anything to be seen in the drawings of his contemporaries, much less in those of later generations.’4
1. Guiffrey, op.cit., listed over 130 académies by Prud’hon in his catalogue of the artist’s work
2. Guiffrey, op.cit., under no.1201. The Itasse drawing is described by Guiffrey as an ‘Étude d’homme. Marchant vers la droite, de trois quarts, la jambe droite en avant, la tête de profil à droite, les deux bras étendus à gauche. Crayons noir et blanc. H. 0,62; L. 0,40.’. The same drawing presumably that formerly in the collection of P.-A. Cheremy, and sold at his sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 5-7 May 1908, lot 265 (‘Académie d’homme debout, marchant, les bras levés. Dessin au crayon avec des reprises de blanc. Haut., 62 cent.; larg., 40 cent.’, sold for 650 francs to Itasse).
3. Paris, Palais des Beaux-Arts, op.cit., pp. 46-47, nos. 241-243.
4. S. Laveissière, Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, exhib. cat., New York, 1998, p. 256.
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