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
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.