Reason speaks, Pleasure entraps (La Raison parle, le Plaisir entraîne)

A woman seen in profile at right embraces a man at center, who looks out at the viewer with a slight smile, while at left another woman looks at him from behind

Pierre-Paul Prud’hon (Cluny, Saône-et-Loire 1758–1823 Paris)
Reason Speaks, Pleasure Entraps (La Raison parle, le Plaisir entraîne) or The Choice Between Virtue and Vice, ca. 1795
Charcoal and black and white chalk with brown wash on faded blue laid paper
8 3/8 × 6 5/8 in. (213 × 168 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.


Pierre-Paul Prud’hon is best known for his academic drawings on blue paper and for his allegorical paintings and portraits. An active Jacobin during the Reign of Terror, as well as an artist who benefitted from the patronage of both Napoleon and the restored Bourbon kings, Prud’hon always managed to work for the ruling powers in France. During the first half of the 1790s, he was interested in allegorical subjects. He created highly finished drawings, such as this, which were intended as works of art in their own right. This drawing originally had a pendant (now lost), representing Virtue struggling with Vice.

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