Seated Male Nude
Louis de Boullogne the Younger French
Not on view
Son and student of the painter Louis de Boullogne The Elder, one of the twelve founding members of the Académie Royale in 1648, Louis de Boullogne The Younger (1654-1733) was accepted at the Académie in 1681 after a trip to Rome from 1675 to 1679. In 1702, he was asked to decorate the Chapelle Saint-Augustin in the church Saint-Louis des Invalides in Paris while his brother Bon Boullogne (1649-1717) worked in the chapels Saint-Jérôme and Saint-Ambroise.
Signed and dated 1704, this male academy is a preparatory study for the Conversion de Saint-Augustin, one of the six episodes from the saint’s life painted in fresco by Louis in the chapel of St. Augustine of the church Saint-Louis des Invalides in Paris. As Hélène Guicharnaud pointed out it in 1994, this sheet is of special significance since, of all the preparatory drawings that Louis made for the decoration in the Invalides, it is the only one that is dated. A compositional study for the same fresco, preserved in the Musée du Louvre, depicts the saint in the same semi-reclining position as in the Metropolitan’s drawing, but placed under a fig tree with his friend Alipe on the steps just beyond. The composition of the Louvre’s drawing, with its antique architectural setting, is very close to that of the final work. Also connected to our sheet is a very fine Tête d'homme renversée: saint Augustin (Louvre, INV 24868) which studies the head of the saint in greater detail.
Very characteristic of the graphic style of Boullogne, whose favorite medium was the combination of black and white chalk on blue paper, this study reveals his particular talent in depicting a male nude. In a gracious and spiritual attitude, St. Augustine is portrayed here at the moment he experiences his conversion, his face and hands turned upward toward the sky. With a delicate line and a subtle network of cross-hatchings, the artist emphasized the powerful muscle structures of the model, while using tight hatching marks along the left contour of the body to give a sense of volume of the figure and make him stand out against the background.