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Etudes pour un homme drapé, de profil vers la droite

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Scheck Catherine

The strong simplicity of this fine drawing, characteristic of the taste and mastery of Le Sueur, helps reveal his methodical creative process. In his favored technique, he depicts here the noble figure of St. Paul from St. Paul Preaching at Ephesus. The grandiose 1649 "may" (a painting presented annually by the goldsmiths' guild to Notre-Dame), now in the Louvre, amply confirmed the fame of the creator of The Life of St. Bruno. From that point on he would be hailed as the "French Raphael."

Art and method

Judged at some 400 original sheets, of which more than 200 can be admired in the Louvre archives, Le Sueur's surviving drawings are considerable in number. His abundance and mastery, which reflect a fruitful training received in the atelier of Simon Vouet, reveal the primary role that drawings played in Le Sueur's creative process. During his exclusively Parisian career, as brief as it was brilliant, the "may" of 1649 is often considered the artist's masterpiece, created in the full force of his talent. The ambitious painting was the object of a particularly demanding process of meticulous preparation, expertly reconstituted by Alain Mérot: aside from the two painted sketches (London and Algiers), four ensemble studies should be added, from the first rough sketch (Madrid) to the definitive composition with grid markings in the Louvre, as well as twelve figure studies, half of which are also in the Louvre.
The careful gradation present in these successive studies offers a demonstration of the creator's profitable work ethic. The exemplary legibility of the monumental painting St. Paul Preaching at Ephesus is the result. The work is drawn on the paper of a deep gray-beige tone that the Le Sueur preferred in his artistic maturity. It greatly enhanced the light effects and sober contrast of black chalk and white highlights, his preferred technique. The technique is also ideally suited to this type of figure study and, more generally, to the artist's patient process.

The "French Raphael"

Le Sueur, who renounced the decorative effects he learned in the Vouet atelier, gives the most striking expression, in the "may" of 1649, to his adherence to the classicism of Raphael. A veneration for the illustrious Italian - known in France mainly by his paintings and drawings in the royal collection and through engravings - chimes with the Parisian cultural context, be it a question of collectors' taste or the precepts in effect at the Royal Academy (founded in 1648 by, among others, Le Sueur), where the artist was a drawing instructor. In the 18th century, at the height of Le Sueur's popularity, a connoisseur as enlightened as Pierre-Jean Mariette showed no timidity in affirming: "There was between these two men a perfect conformity." This homage concluded a long and enthusiastic parallel between Le Sueur and Raphael outlined in Mariette's Abecedario.

Bibliography

Bicart-Sée Lise, Labbé Jacqueline, "Répertoire des dessins", in Arquié-Bruley Françoise, Bicart-Sée Lise, Labbé Jacqueline, (sous la dir. de), La Collection Saint-Morys au cabinet des Dessins du musée du Louvre (II), Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, coll. "Notes et documents des musées de France, 19", 1987, p. 520.Guiffrey Jean, Marcel Pierre, Inventaire général des dessins du musée du Louvre et du musée de Versailles, École française, t. IX, n 9201, Paris, Librairie centrale d'art et d'architecture / Albert Morancé, 1921.Méjanès Jean-François, in Dessins français du XVIIe siècle, cat. exp. musée du Louvre, 83e exposition du cabinet des Dessins, 26 octobre 1984-28 janvier 1985, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1984, p. 95, n 121.Mérot Alain, Eustache Le Sueur, 1616-1655, Paris, Arthéna, 1987, n D225, p. 238, fig. 300 ; nouvelle éd. enrichie d'un addendum, Paris, Arthéna, "Association pour la diffusion de l'histoire de l'art", 2000.Mérot Alain, "Catalogue des dessins", in cat. exp. Eustache Le Sueur, cat. exp. musée de Grenoble, 19 mars-2 juillet 2000, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000, pp. 143-175.

Technical description

  • Eustache LE SUEUR (Paris, 1616-Paris, 1655)

    Standing man

    c. 1649

  • Black chalk with white highlights on grey-beige paper

    H. 42.2 cm; W. 24.1 cm

  • J.-D. Lempereur; sold, Paris, May 24, 1773, part of no. 482-484; Conti; sold, Paris, 1777, no. 1074; Charles-Paul Jean-Baptiste de Bourgevin Vialart de Saint-Morys Collection; French Revolution confiscations 1793, added to the Museum collections 1796-1797

    INV 30676

  • Prints and Drawings

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

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Additional information about the work

Lower left, in pen and brown ink: Eustache leseur [sic]