1735 — Paris — 1784
Sleeping Peasant Boy
black & white chalk on buff paper. 95/16 x 111/2" (237 x 290 mm).
First suggested in 2001 by a museum scholar specializing in French drawings,1 her attribution to Lepicie is supported by comparison to a large number of drawings by the artist in the Louvre.2 Not only is the use of a heathery beige paper (as in the present example) quite common, the particular technique which is both soft and crisp, employing both a stumping tool and the point of chalk, as well as the use of white heightening, is found in a number of Louvre studies, as are the variations in type of chalk stroke and the multi-directional nature of those strokes. Might this drawing have been a study for a resting figure in a painting or was it a life study made solely for the pleasure of the artist?
Many French artists of the 18th century looked to the Netherlandish old masters for their inspiration. Here, the pose of the figure suggests a familiarity with the engravings after designs by Abraham Bloemaert depicting shepherds lulling about in similar positions. Or perhaps an analogous figure by Cornelis Saftleven was our artist’s source of inspiration. Such figure types portrayed the desirable pastoral life, to be contemplated by fashionable, cosmopolitan city dwellers. Boucher, for instance, catered to the French vogue of the urbane Parisian enjoying images of the simpler rural life. Lépicié regularly submitted genre subjects to the biannual salons3 even though he enjoyed a successful career as a painter of history and religious subjects. A pupil of Carle Van Loo, Lepicie was received as an Academician in 1769, made a professor in 1777, and would have continued his career as a gifted and admired artist had he not met an early death.4 Still, it is along with Vincent that he pioneered the painting of themes from a national, French past. Yet he is known for his descriptive realism and sympathetic view of contemporary life.
That suggestion was kindly made on the basis of an e-mail image on July 18th, 2001.
See the Louvre's web-site, under Inventaire du Département des Art graphiques.
Perrin Stein and Tav Holmes, Eighteenth Century French Drawings in New York Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, p.145, cat. # 62.
Peter Walch, Joana Barnes, Patrice Marandel, French Oil Sketches and the Academic Tradition, NY & Penn., 1994, p. 75.