The present drawing is a finished study for Gérôme's oil La Vierge, l'Enfant Jésus et Saint Jean, which was exhibited at the Salon of 1848 and is now in a private collection in the United States (see G. Ackerman, Gérôme, Paris, 2000, no. 20, p. 214).
In the final painting, as in this work, the influence of Raphael is most strong, not just in the choice of a triangular composition of harmonically overlapping figures but also in the sweet softness of line and the decorative flourishes of the details.
Finally, La Vierge, l'Enfant Jésus et Saint Jean offers an interesting rendition of a complex iconography: the Christ Child accepts from Saint John the task of liberating the world through a kiss, not through the traditional receiving of a cross, a banner, or a more obvious symbol of death. The salvation as a redemption through harmony, not agony, reflects the refined, intellectual Catholicism of mid-century France. This groundbreaking iconography would later be taken up by Bouguereau in 1853.
We are grateful to Gerald M. Ackerman for his assistance in cataloguing this work.