This is the final drawing, engraved by Henri Marais, for the frontispiece of Pierre Didot's de luxe edition of Racine's plays (1801-05). The volumes were reprinted in 1816, 1820 and 1822, with two different sets of prints after the same compositions. A sketch for the present drawing, in the same medium but slightly smaller, was in Brun-Neergaard's collection in the early 19th Century, Guiffrey, op. cit., no. 1064.
Prud'hon's success at the Salon did not last long. Lacking sufficient private commissions, he worked extensively for publishers for a more secure source of income. Throughout his career, he illustrated more than eighty books. In preparation for the illustrations, Prud'hon usually executed two drawings, one sketched in black chalk and another, more finished, for the engraver. A pair of such drawings for Tasso's Aminta, published by Renouard in 1800, was sold in these Rooms, 12 January 1995, lot 14. The second drawing for the Aminta series is drawn entirely in wash with the point of the brush. This medium, however, proved to be so time-consuming, that in the following years Prud'hon refused to execute wash drawings for book illustrations and prepared the engravers drawings in black chalk, such as in the present sheet.
In the second half of the 19th Century, the drawing was owned by a distinguished collector of Jean Racine memorabilia and famous bibliophile, Auguste de Naurois (1803-1885). De Naurois was the grandson of Claude-Louis de Naurois (1741-1819), whose grandmother, Marie-Catherine Collin de Moramber, was the daughter of the playwright Jean Racine.
Claude-Louis Jacobé de Naurois began the family tradition of collecting documents relating to Jean Racine and his son, Louis Racine, who was also a playwright. The collection was continued by Claude-Louis' grandson Auguste de Naurois and his great-grandson Albert de Naurois.