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Aphrodite Rescues Paris from his Duel with Menelaus. Pen and black ink over a light preliminary chalk drawing, brown wash, white heightening, on blue paper. 38.5 x 49.5 cm.
This magnificent drawing full of Baroque power and pathos depicts an episode from the third canto of the Iliad (Iliad III, 340–382), a subject that was seldom treated in 18th century art. Armed with a lance, Menelaus lunges towards Paris as Aphrodite appears from the clouds, seizes Paris with both arms and lifts him from his chariot. The entire scene vibrates with a tumultuous, irrepressible energy. The confident, lively and highly accurate penwork makes every detail appear extremely vivid. The fluid, seemingly effortlessly applied washes and white heightening produce a graphic effect of great succinctness and a striking chiaroscuro reminiscent of Italian masters of the Cinquecento.
The painter, draughtsman and etcher, Pierre Lelu, was a pupil of François Boucher and Gabriel François Doyen. In 1762 he went to Italy, where he mostly produced copies after Old Masters, and returned to Paris in 1767. He is known to have spent time in Italy on two other occasions, in 1775 and 1789. In 1775 he also travelled to Spain and Portugal. While Lelu became a member of the Academy in Marseilles in 1778, he was never admitted to the Académie royale in Paris. Only a few of his paintings have survived, but he did produce quite an extensive corpus of prints and drawings. The present brilliantly executed sheet is undoubtedly one of Lelu’s outstanding achievements in this field.
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