This is an unpublished study for the figure in the far left of Le Sueur's tapestry cartoon of Saints Gervasius and Protasius led before Astasius and refusing to sacrifice to the idols, painted in 1652-3 and now in the Louvre, A. Mérot, Eustache Le Sueur, Paris, 1987, no. 165, fig. 413.
The cartoon was part of a series of six commissioned from Le Sueur by the Wardens of the church of Saints Gervasius and Protasius in Paris on 24 March 1652. The contract precisely specified the subjects, which were taken from The Golden Legend, and indicated that they wanted the compositions to include between 20 and 30 figures. Le Sueur was required to produce a modello (since lost) to be shown to the patrons for their approval, before he could paint the cartoons for the tapestries. These were specified to be 6.8 meters long and 3.6 meters high, in order to fill the spaces between the pillars of the church. The first of the six cartoons was delivered by Le Sueur in May 1653, and the weaving was immediately begun by Gérard Laurent.
In June of the same year Le Sueur asked his patrons to increase the payments for each cartoon from 666 livres et 1,000 livres. He began work on the the second cartoon, but it remained unfinished at his death on 30 April 1655. Work was resumed by Le Sueur's brother-in-law Thomas Goussé, but after completion of the second cartoon the Wardens awarded the commission to Sébastien Bourdon. Bourdon only executed one cartoon, and the remaining three were completed by Philippe de Champaigne.
The first four tapestries were delivered on 31 January 1661. These were intended to decorate the choir and transept on special occasions, while the cartoons were to be hung permanently between the pillars of the church. Only a single set of tapestries was woven, and all that remains of the first composition is a fragment now in the Mobilier National, Paris, A. Mérot, op. cit., pp. 298-304.
Eight preparatory drawings for the first cartoon are now extant, A. Mérot, op. cit., nos. D295-302. All of these drawings are figure studies of the same technique as the present sheet. Of these, a sheet at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, from the Chantelou and Jean de Julienne collections, is preparatory to the same figure as that in the present sheet, A. Mérot, op. cit., no. D299. There are very few compositional differences between the two sheets, but their intention is different: the present drawing was probably intended to establish the pose of the figure within the composition, while the drawing in Paris is more obviously a drapery study. The present sheet also indicates, albeit in a very sketchy way, the figure to the left, which is visible in the picture.
Mariette owned 21 drawings by Le Sueur, of which 16 can now be traced. The drawings were divided into five lots, 1367 to 1371. Lot 1367, four drawings, was bought for the Royal cabinet and the drawings are now in the Louvre, A. Mérot, op. cit., nos. D1, D277, D282 and D328. Lots 1368 and 1369 contained thirteen drapery studies, of which eleven, including the present one, are extant: A. Mérot, op. cit., D181, D193, D195 (for Mérot 75), D202, D204, D203, D206 (for Mérot 78), D268, D269 (for Mérot 158) and D380 (unrelated). Lot 1370 included only one sheet, now in the Louvre (A. Mérot, op. cit., D193 for Mérot 75), while lot 1371 contained three compositional drawings, now lost, for the Saints Gervasius and Protasius cycle. The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, owns one further Le Sueur vignette from Mariette but as the sheet was laid down on a mount with drawings by different hands it was probably not included in the lots 1367-71.