F. Dowley, "Anacreon and Le Prince," The Register of the Museum of Art, The University of Kansas at Lawrence, t. II, no. 6, June 1961, p. 16-17 and p. 23, notes 47, 48 and 50;
S. Sawicka, "Un dessin de Jean-Bernard Restout pour une peinture disparue," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VIème per. (LXXII), 1968, p. 191-94;
M. Sandoz, "'Les plaisirs d'Anacreon' de Jean-Bernard Restout," Bulletin du Musée National de Varsovie, no. 1 (1970), p. 23-28;
J. Adhémar and J. Seznec, eds.,Diderot Salons, Vol. II, 1765, 2nd edition, Oxford 1979, pp. 204-5;
J. Adhémar and J. Seznec, eds.,Diderot Salons, Vol. III, 1767, 2nd edition, Oxford 1983, pp. 284-85;
E.M. Bukdahl and A. Lorenceau, Diderot, Salon de 1765, Paris 1984, pp. 271-75;
Didier Aaaron, Catalogue, Paris, London, New York, 1994/95, cat. no. 10, reproduced;
C.E. Foster, "Jean-Bernard Restout's 'Sleep--Figure Study': Painting and Drawing from Life at the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture," in Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, Vol. 3, 1998, pp. 51-53, reproduced (detail) fig. 10;
C. Gouzi, Jean Restout 1692-1768, peintre d'histoire à Paris, Paris 2000, p. 169
Son of the painter Jean Restout (1692-1768), Jean-Bernard won second prize in the Prix de Rome competition in 1755 and, three years later, won first prize for his painting depicting Abraham Leading Isaac to the Sacrifice (untraced). After studying in Rome, he returned to Paris and was approved (agrée) by the Royal Academy in 1765 with his submission of the present work (his morceau d'agrément), depicting the Greek lyric poet, Anacreon. He was fully received (reçu) in 1767 and became a professor in 1771.
Though not listed in the Livret of the Salon of 1765, we know that The Pleasures of Anacreon was exhibited in the rooms of the Academy as the art critic Denis Diderot (see Literature) mentioned it at length in his commentary on the exhibition of that year. He praised the young artist's technique, his use of color and the richness of the composition ("Toute cette composition respire la volupté"). However, he was critical of his depiction of Anacreon, which he thought portrayed him as a drunken and crude figure rather than as a great and refined poet. The painting was officially exhibited in the 1767 Salon and was received with much critical acclaim, however Diderot repeated his comments from two years earlier. The painting was well placed, mid-way up one of the enormous Salon walls, and can be seen in Gabriel de Saint-Aubin's watercolor, View of the Salon of 1767.1 Anacreon's poetry was much admired by contemporary French writers and the poet had been the subject of two separate operas by the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (one in 1754 and the second in 1757), but Restout's use of the poet as the subject of a painting seems to be without precedent.2
Anacreon's poetry, of which only fragments survive, often touched on themes of love, wine and revelry. Restout has depicted the poet in the act of singing or reciting one of his poems to the accompaniment of music, the manner in which lyric poetry was meant to be performed. He is seated on a divan in an open room or loggia surrounded by sumptuous fabrics and objects and accompanied by a courtesan playing a lyre. His left hand, resting on a guéridon, holds a silver cup presumably filled with wine as implied by the grapes laid out on the table. The painting appears to have remained in Restout's possession until his death3 and he exhibited it again in the first open Salon of 1791.
A number of related works survive for the Anacreon. A preparatory sanguine drawing is in the collection of the University of Warsaw Library (see Sawicka under Literature) and the painting was engraved by Jean-Louis Anselin in 1793. A small preparatory oil sketch was in a sale at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, on 3 December 1982, lot 211 (as French 18th century, Bacchus and Ariadne), and a reduced replica passed through a sale at Versailles on 5 December 1968, lot 35 (as attributed to Caresme, The Rest of Dionysis).
1. See Gabriel de Saint-Aubin 1724-1780, exhibition catalogue, New York, The Frick Collection, 2007, p. 272, reproduced fig. 1.
2. For later examples see F. Dowley, "Anacreon and Le Prince," The Register of the Museum of Art, The University of Kansas at Lawrence, t. II, no. 6, June 1961, pp. 8-21.
3 An inventory of Restout's possessions drawn up after his death (and rediscovered by N. Willk-Brocard) lists among a group of paintings "Morpheus, Anacreon, and two academic studies by Restout fils," see C.E. Foster, "Jean-Bernard Restout's 'Sleep--Figure Study': Painting and Drawing from Life at the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture," in Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, Vol. 3, 1998, pp. 52-3, p. 77, footnote 28.
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