Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Tournus 1725–1805 Paris)
Head of a Boy, ca. 1777
Red chalk on cream laid paper
15 1/2 × 12 3/4 in. (393.7 × 323.8 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.
Best known for his moralizing and sentimental genre scenes, Jean-Baptiste Greuze was unrivaled among his peers in France for his ability to convey human expression. Contemporary accounts describe his near-obsessive approach to drawing figures, often producing multiple studies to prepare a single figure or composition. This head study is related to The Father’s Curse: The Ungrateful Son, a composition explored by the artist in a number of versions over more than a decade. It may have been made close to the time he produced the 1777 painting of it now at the Musée du Louvre. The scene depicts a young man leaving his family for the military, against his ailing father’s wishes. This sheet relates to the figure of a younger sibling who, holding his hands in prayer, bears a look of fear and consternation at the drama unfolding.