The Punishment of Niobe

Merry Joseph Blondel French

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Merry Joseph Blondel was a successful decorative painter in the first half of the nineteenth century. He received many commissions from the State, including for ceilings at the Musée du Louvre, the Palais de la Bourse, and the Château de Fontainebleau. This highly finished figure study in black and white chalk is a preparatory study for a panel in the ceiling of the Galerie de Diane at the Château de Fontainebleau.

According to Homer’s Iliad, Niobe was a mortal who boasted of her many children, incurring the wrath of the gods. As punishment for her pride, Apollo and Artemis killed all her children, shooting them with arrows. In the ceiling panel at Fontainebleau, Blondel shows Niobe kneeling, supporting the limp body of her daughter, who has an arrow leaning against her thigh. Several bodies of other dead children can be seen lying on the ground. In this highly finished chalk study, Blondel uses light and shadow to carefully model the forms and capture of the fall of the drapery, allowing the pose and expression to convey the tragedy of the subject.

The Punishment of Niobe, Merry Joseph Blondel (French, Paris 1781–1853 Paris), Conté crayon and white chalk on buff paper

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