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Standing Male Nude with Outstretched Arms (Study for an Apollo). Red chalk. 34.1 x 21.7 cm. Watermark: IHS.
Bernard Picart, an engraver, draughtsman and miniaturist from Paris, was apprenticed to his father, Etienne Picart, and Benoît Audran before continuing his training in 1689 in the studio of Sébastien I. Leclerc. Picart spent several lengthy periods in the Netherlands in the 1690s before settling for good in Amsterdam in 1711. He subsequently became one of the busiest and most successful engravers in the Netherlands, where his connections with the wealthy and influential French Protestant émigrés enabled him to pursue a wide variety of activities. Picart worked mostly for the book trade, supplying title pages, vignettes, ornamental engravings and illustrations on biblical and mythological themes. He was instrumental in spreading the elegant and cosmopolitan Régence style in the Netherlands, his works revealing the potent influence of French artists from the late Baroque period. Picart’s printed oeuvre is very extensive; among his main works are vignettes and illustrations for De la Marck’s large edition of the Bible, a project begun in 1710 on which the artist collaborated with Gerard Hoet and Arnold Houbraken.
The present figure study may have arisen in connection with the large 1732 Amsterdam edition of Ovid’s works. The male nude, in all probability a study for an Apollo, has been drawn with great accuracy and effortless mastery. A dense network of parallel and cross hatchings gives the muscular, well-proportioned body a pronounced three-dimensional quality. Individual outlines reinforce the shape; the use of light is both soft and subtle. The god stands in a classical contrapposto pose. This, together with his outstretched left arm and bent right arm, suggest that he is aiming his bow – the attribute of Apollo – at an imaginary target. Pictorial elements, such as the billowing drapery and the wind-ruffled hair, lend the somewhat static pose added momentum.