With its large size and admirable quality, this work – which is in good condition – immediately stands out as an important drawing among those of the artist's académie studies that are still in private hands.
The model is shown in a natural pose, resting against a support, her face in profile turned gracefully downwards. Her left arm has been left unfinished by the artist.
Like other académies by Prud'hon, this sheet raises interesting questions about the artist's relationship with this type of work: Prud'hon made life drawings throughout his long career, although by definition the academic study is a training exercise, part of an artist's apprenticeship. While accepted as the basis of a classical art education, most painters and sculptors abandoned such studies as they matured.
But this is not the case with Prud'hon – quite the contrary. His académies, portraying both men and women, represented a distinct part of his drawing activity, which he practised throughout his working life and developed to its highest form of expression. As in the case of the present drawing, these are often works in their own right, rather than training exercises or preparatory sketches.
The study can probably be dated to the beginning of the 1810s: at this time the artist had a studio at the Sorbonne, where he was able to benefit from the life modelling sessions organised by his pupil Trézel.
The model could be Marguerite, one of Prud'hon's favourite models at this time. Her delicate features and her hair can be recognised in other life studies by the artist dating from the same period.
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