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Work The Infant Pyrrhus before Glaucias

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Le jeune Pyrrhus à la cour de Glaucias

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Author(s):
Maget Antoinette

This drawing by François-André Vincent is a preparatory work for a painting exhibited in the Salon of 1791 (now in the Castle of Židlochovice, Czech Republic). It illustrates an episode from the life of Pyrrhus in the form of a frieze in which the naked figures are a reminder of antiquity and attest to Vincent's academic style.

A child's prayer

In a subject taken from Plutarch, the artist has concentrated on the characters, who are divided into two groups. Glaucias and his wife are sitting on the right. Pyrrhus has been laid at Glaucias's feet by the faithful servants on the left. The infant is trying to pull himself up by clinging to the clothing (not shown in the drawing) of the King of Illyria. The attitudes of the loyal Epirians betray their feelings about the behavior of the dethroned heir.

Preparatory classicism

By its subject (the life of Pyrrhus is a seldom-chosen episode from Plutarch's Parallel Lives), the final work demonstrates the Neoclassical style, which Vincent helped to initiate. The presentation of the work at the Salon of 1791 sparked much comment. The artist used this preparatory drawing in executing the painting. He squared the drawing and used naked figures to work out the composition, because nudity has the advantage of showing the play of muscles under clothing. The bodies are pure shapes, and the faces are entirely geometrical, devoid of expression.

An austere palace

The action takes place in a room in Glaucias's palace, the architecture and decoration of which are soberly drawn. The only "frivolity" is a warlike statue, a bellicose incarnation of the majesty of monarchy, standing opposite the Doric columns and sturdy walls. Pyrrhus' attitude towards the king draws a parallel with the scene of Moses at Pharaoh's feet. The child's behavior will soften Glaucias who, despite fear of reprisal from Cassander, will give him into the care of his wife. The artist's use of line restricts the representation of the characters to what they are physically, but their attitudes hint at their inner thoughts, in what could be called a sculptural manner. Vincent has created sculptural figures, statues without marble, and the elliptical bodies suggest the whiteness of antique statuary.

Bibliography

Cuzin Jean-Pierre, "François-André Vincent 1740-1816", in Cahiers du dessin français, t. IV, Paris, 1988, p. 7, p. 22, n 52.
Damisch Hubert, Le Traité du trait, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, coll. "Parti-pris", 1995, pp. 101, 124-125, 203, n 31, (notice Lucas Anne).
Lazano L. M., Arte de las Academias : Francia y México, siglos XVII-XIX, Exposition, México, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, 1999, p. 135.
Méjanès Jean-François, in Acquisitions du Cabinet des dessins : 1973-1983. 81e exposition du Cabinet des dessins, Exposition, Paris, musée du Louvre, 16 mars-4 juin 1984, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1984, n 101.
Michel Régis, Le Beau idéal ou l'art du concept, Exposition, Paris, Cabinet des dessins, musée du Louvre, 17 octobre-31 décembre 1989, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1989, pp. 89-91, 127, 165, n 52.
Revue du Louvre, 1976, n 4, p. 5 repr.

Technical description

  • François-André Vincent (Paris, 1746-1816)

    The Infant Pyrrhus before Glaucias

    1790

  • Pen and brown ink and brown wash over a red chalk sketch with black chalk strokes, squared with black chalk

    H. 37.5 cm; W. 42.5 cm

  • Miss Atger; purchase, 1976

    4036140

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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