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Work Two Men Standing and Looking Carefully to the Left

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Deux hommes debout regardant avec attention vers la gauche

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Author(s):
Surname FirstName1, Surname2 FirstName2

This double study, similar to the male nudes which were done at the Académie Royale, has not been connected to any of Lemoyne's paintings, nor to any prints made of his work. It may be related to one of the missing canvases painted for the mansion that Peyrenc de Moras had built near the Invalides. The drawing shows two nude men in a setting which it is hard to identify.

What might be the subject be?

This drawing is one of the finest examples of the blending together, always sought for in studies, of chiaroscuro - accentuated here by wet brushstrokes which dilute the black chalk and create an effect of blurring - and modeling heightened by the precision and continuity of outline. The man on the left is stretching out his right arm and pointing at something -- or someone -- with his index finger. He seems to be shouting and is about to throw a stone. The man on the right is leaning heavily with both hands on a stick (or perhaps an oar) and looking with a frown in the same direction. Are they perhaps on a boat? The vigor and precision both of the execution and the outlines suggest the drawing can be dated around 1730. The subtle use of short, parallel lines of black chalk to indicate the shadows, highlighted with occasional accents of white, unfailingly convey Lemoyne's skill as a draftsman, as do the small curling strokes of the hair.

Nude studies at the Académie

The French term "académie" denotes both the institution of learning and the outcome of an exercise that consists in drawing or sculpting a male nude from life: the nude study (also called an "academy figure" in English). As the cornerstone of teaching at the Académie Royale, life classes were held every day in the seventeenth century. At the end of the century, two models would pose together once a month, adopting various attitudes (usually those of wrestlers or fighters, as is probably the case here). These studies allowed students to question the nature of movement and the modifications it brought about to musculature and morphology. Here, the positions of the models' limbs afford a lesson in French rocaille: a chiasmus (or reverse parallelism) within each figure echoes that within the group, where each figure moves in opposition to the other.

The Peyrenc de Moras mansion

Lemoyne's large decorative compositions are well known, such as the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule at Versailles, a supreme example of this kind of typically French ceiling. Less well known, on the other hand, are the decorative ensembles he painted for private individuals at a time when ceiling painting's only refuge was in overdoors. One instance of these are the decorations he made for the mansion built by Peyrenc de Moras in 1728, from plans by Jacques Anges Gabriel. Lemoyne painted eighteen panels, including The Four Points of the Day, in the large central salon. In the duchess's ceremonial chamber there is Alpheus Pursuing Arethusa, Hercules Delivering Hesione, and Mercury Lulling Argus to sleep as he Watches Over the Heifer Io; in the oval cabinet are the Labors of Penelope and the Return of Ulysses with Telemachus; in the adjacent room is Narcissus and the Nymph Echo. The right half of Hercules Delivering Hesione (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy) shows two men facing one another in a boat. Though the theme is the same as that of the drawing, their postures are different; only a tenuous thread links the graphic work with the painting.

Bibliography

- BORDEAUX Jean-Louis, "François Lemoyne et la décoration de l'hôtel Peyrence de Moras", in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, premier semestre, tome 77, pp. 65-76.

- MEJANES Jean-François, Dessins français du XVIIIe siècle, de Watteau à Lemoyne, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, 1987, n 130.

- MEJANES Jean-François, Arte de las Academias, Francia y México, siglos XVII-XIX, cat. exp. Mexico, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, 2000, pp. 116-123.

En savoir plus :

- BORDEAUX Jean-Louis, François Le Moyne and his generation 1688-1737, Arthena, 1984.

- SALMON Xavier, DUCAMP Emmanuel, François Lemoyne à Versailles, cat. exp. Versailles, musée national des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 2001.

Technical description

  • François Lemoyne (Paris, 1688-1737)

    Two Men Standing and Looking Carefully to the Left

    Circa 1730

  • Black chalk with white highlights on tinted grey-beige paper

    H. 25.6 cm.; W. 41 cm

  • Saint-Morys collection; confiscation of émigré property, 1793; transferred to the Louvre, 1796-97

    3930559

  • Prints and Drawings

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

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