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Study sheet with a woman sewing and head studies of girls and young women. Pen and brown ink. 36 x 23.4 cm. Circa 1800–10.
Dominique Vivant, Baron Denon, was involved in a wide variety of activities and commissions in the course of his life as a diplomat, writer, museum director and collector, but his abiding passion was art. From his days as a student he regularly worked as a draughtsman, medal maker, etcher and lithographer, acquiring the requisite artistic skills mainly through his own endeavours. On the recommendation of Madame Beauharnais, Napoleon took Denon with him on his expedition to Egypt (1798/99), which the artist recorded in a publication, and in 1802 appointed him director-general of the museums in France. He thus became the first director of the Louvre and, as assessor from 1805 of the European cultural assets confiscated by France, he became “Napoleon’s Eye”.
This superb large study sheet shows Denon to be a gifted draughtsman with an unerring talent for psychological characterisation. The drawing must have arisen within the artist’s immediate family. The young woman absorbed in her sewing is rendered with great sensitivity and is presented from different angles in other detail studies. Particularly evocative and expressive is her coy yet charming gaze captured in the small pen-and-ink sketch on the extreme right near the margin. In the lower part of the drawing young girls and children form a tight-knit group sat at a round table. Their convivial gathering is portrayed in a touching and very realistic manner. Denon demonstrates great élan in providing this highly personal look at the everyday life of a Parisian family around 1800. Provenance: Faerber and Maison, New Bond Street, London.Contact us for further information