PIERRE-PAUL PRUD'HON (Cluny 1758-1823 Paris)
Study of an hand
black and white chalk on blue paper
712 x 1058 in. (19 x 27 cm)
Estate of the artist; by inheritance to his friend and pupil
Charles Boulanger de Boisfremont (1773-1838), Paris (L. 353); by descent to
Mme Henri Power, née Boisfremont; Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 15-16 April 1864, lot 62.
Marie-Joseph-François Mahérault (1795-1879), Paris; Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 27-29 May 1880, part of lot 263.
Kurt Benedikt, Paris.
Anonymous sale; Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 25 June 1990, lot 9.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s Arcade, New York, 16 July 1998, lot 2.
E. de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint, dessiné et gravé de Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Paris, 1876, p. 315.
J. Guiffrey, L’Œuvre de Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Paris, 1924, no. 201.
J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection. Catalogue of Pictures, III, French before 1815, London, 1989, p. 262.
N. Garnier-Pelle, Chantilly, Musée Condé. Peintures des XIXe et XXe siècles, Paris and Chantilly, 1997, p. 311, under no. 251.
Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, Exposition des œuvres de Prud’hon, 1874, no. 340.
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Lot Essay

This elegant study in Prud’hon’s signature technique of black and white chalks on blue paper was made for the main figure in The sleep of Venus and Cupid(in the past also called The sleep of Psyche), a picture now at the Wallace Collection, London, inv. P348 (fig. 1; see Ingamells, op. cit., pp. 260-262; and S. Duffy and J. Hedley, The Wallace Collection’s Pictures, London, 2004, pp. 255-256). At the Paris Salon of 1815, it was exhibited under the title Vénus et l’Amour endormis caresses et reveilles par les zéphyrsby Constance Mayer, Prud’hon’s pupil and lover who, in the words of Charles Clément, ‘saw all art only through the eyes of her master and her friend’ and who ‘strove merely to follow him and imitate him, to merge with in this as in everything else’ (Prud’hon. Sa vie, ses œuvres et sa correspondance, Paris, 1872, p. 302). While it is uncertain whether Prud’hon had a hand in the execution of the painting, as has sometimes been claimed, there can be no doubt that the composition was devised by him. Apart from the present study, his chalk sketch for the entire composition survives at the Louvre (inv. RF 4632; see S. Laveissière, Prud’hon ou le rêve du bonheur, exhib. cat., Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997-1998, no. 172, ill.), while an oil sketch is at the Musée Condé, Chantilly (inv. 422; see Garnier-Pelle, op. cit., no. 251, ill.; for other related works of unknown location, see ibid.). The painting, together with a pendant dated 1808 at the Musée Napoléon, Salenstein (Laveissière, op. cit., no. 173, ill.), was acquired by Empress Joséphine, Prud’hon’s greatest champion.

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