Drawings

  • Study after a Plaster Cast of the Apollo Belvedere, ca. 1814
    Black chalk on laid paper
    32 x 34.5 cm
    Signed and dedicated lower right in David’s hand, David à son ami Cuvier; inscribed lower left in a different hand, N. 87-1814
    Collection Louise Grunwald

    Cat. 1

    Long considered an exemplar of ideal classical beauty, the full-length ancient marble statue known as the Apollo Belvedere (Vatican Museums, Rome) was widely copied by early nineteenth-century art students. In this drawing, possibly a comment on the distance between the classical tradition and modern life, David shows only the face of the god, lying across the page like a fragmented artifact or death mask. Later, he would claim: “I prefer an ugly head that thinks profoundly to a head copied after the antique because [in the latter] the lines are so pure that it is petrified in its nullity.” Dedicated to the French zoologist Georges Cuvier (1769–1832), David’s Apollo recalls the fossils that were crucial for that scientist’s theories of animal life.

  • General Bonchamps Shown in a Pose Designed for His Tomb (recto), 1824
    Graphite, pen, and brown ink (recto); graphite (verso)
    21.4 x 28 cm 
    Signed lower right
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
    Purchase, Karen B. Cohen Gift, 1989 (1989.286.1)

    Cat. 2

    A prolific draftsman, David often made multiple preliminary sketches for his sculptures. This schematic drawing outlines the composition of his Monument to Bonchamps (1824), a reduced bronze version of which is exhibited nearby. David references an ancient Greek sculpture of a river god from the recently discovered Elgin marbles (British Museum), which he had seen in London in 1816 (see below). He transforms that languidly reclining figure with the addition of a raised arm and a more upright orientation of the torso, a preview of the expressive urgency and instantaneity that characterize the finished statue.

     

     

  • Head of a Woman in Profile, ca. 1830s
    Graphite on paper
    20.6 x 15.8 cm 
    Estate stamp, lower left
    The Cleveland Museum of Art; Gift of the Painting and Drawing Society of The Cleveland Museum of Art (2000.40)

    Cat. 3

    This sensitive rendering is an amalgam of classicism and closely observed nature. Delicate hatching indicates the contours of the face, with a subtle emphasis on the outline of the profile — particularly the bridge of the nose and the slightly parted lips. This contrasts with the boldly marked strokes of the sitter’s hair, with its upward serpentine swirl continued by the curve of the hair comb. David valued profile views for their ability to quickly and accurately describe an individual. “The profile,” he wrote, “is unity.”

  • Portrait of A. W. von Schlegel, 1834
    Graphite on paper
    26 x 16 cm 
    Inscribed in David’s hand, A. W. von Schlegel / dessiné par David d’Angers à Bonn en [1840]
    New York Public Library; S. P. Avery Collection, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs

    Cat. 4

    This precise likeness of the Romantic writer A. W. von Schlegel (1767–1845) was executed from life during David’s second trip to Germany in 1834. Particular care is taken with Schlegel’s profile, which would be the crucial element of the corresponding portrait medallion. According to the sculptor, his motives for making the portrait were “the brutal ingratitude of young Germans for the old man, and … the interest I have gained from reading his works on art.”

  • Study for a Tomb Relief for the Duchess d’Abrantès, 1841
    Graphite on papier calque laid on mulberry paper
    22.1 x 20 cm
    Signed, dated, and inscribed in brown ink at bottom in David’s hand, Projet de bas relief pour le monument de Mme. D’Abrantès.
    Collection Dr. and Mrs. Michael Schlossberg

    Cat. 5

    In the nineteenth century, the achievements of women were rarely acknowledged by public monuments. Shown here is David’s unexecuted design for a tomb relief commemorating Laure Junot, Duchess of Abrantès (1784–1838). The duchess, wife of a Napoleonic general and later Balzac’s lover, is shown writing her famous memoirs. Standing before her are Napoleon and a group of his generals, including her husband. David developed an original and expressive relief style. His bas-reliefs, as indicated by this drawing, focus on legibility and reject the elaborate perspectival conceits of painting. Sharply delineated and flattened figures, generally in profile, typically crowd the foreground of his compositions.

  • The Four Sergeants of La Rochelle, 1844
    Graphite on paper
    20 x 17.4 cm (sheet size)
    Private collection

    Cat. 6