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Study of a nude horseman seen from behind, his right arm raised, with a study of another man

Study of a nude horseman seen from behind, his right arm raised, with a study of another man
black chalk heightened with white, on light brown paper
14 3⁄8 x 8 1⁄8 in. (37 x 20.5 cm)
Jean-Denis Lempereur (1701-1799), Paris (L. 1740); Paris, 19 October 1775, possibly part of lots 93, 94, 95, 780, 787 or 794.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, New York, 12 January 1995, lot 89.
N. Strasser, Dessins français du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle. Collection Jean Bonna, Geneva, 2016, p. 92, under no. 37.
E. Brugerolles, Suite française. Dessins de la collection Jean Bonna, exhib. cat., Paris, École supérieure nationale des Beaux-Arts, 2007, p. 134, under no. 25.

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Lot Essay

Between his acceptance by the Académie in 1718, meeting François Berger, who would become his main patron, in 1721, and leaving for Italy in 1723, Lemoyne worked on a large and ambitious painting, signed and dated 1722, now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie in Besançon (inv. 850.21.1; see J.L. Bordeaux, François Lemoyne and his Generation 1688-1737, Paris, 1984, no. 33, fig. 29). Based on Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (canto III, verses 21-25), Lemoyne’s composition depicts the battle in which the Christian hero Tancred recognizes in his adversary the beautiful Saracen woman Clorinda and falls in love with her. The present drawing is a nude study for the horseman seen from behind, emerging from the background next to Tancred’s standard-bearer to the left side of the composition. Focusing on the man’s well-defined body, stretched-out to the entire page in a pose of tension, stressed by the white chalk heightening, Lemoyne barely indicates the man’s lance, helmet, and his mount, which he keeps under control with invisible reins held in his left hand. The figure appears fully clothed in the painting, and the drawing attests to the carefulness of Lemoyne’s preparatory process, documented by many other figure studies of this type dating from various periods of his short career (he committed suicide before reaching the age of fifty). The figure below does not appear in the final composition but contributes to the dynamic mise-en-page of the drawing.

At least six other studies by the artist for his painting are known (Bordeaux, op. cit., nos. 46-49, ill.; Christie's, Paris, 27 March 2019, lot 63; and a sheet with Bernheimer Fine Old Masters and Galerie Arnoldi- Livie, in 2001). Like two other figure studies for the painting including one in the Louvre (Bordeaux, op. cit., no. D. 46, fig. 174; and the drawing sold in 2019 mentioned previously), the sheet offered here once belonged to the collection of Jean-Denis Lempereur, who had gathered no fewer than 41 drawings by the artist. The Louvre remains the largest repository of Lemoyne’s drawings since the contents of his studio was transferred to the Cabinet du Roi after he died.

We are grateful to Jean-Luc Bordeaux for confirming that the present drawing will be included in his forthcoming revised catalogue raisonné on the artist.

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