Paris 1852 - 1929 Quincey
Reclining Male Nude; Study for Atalante
Signed and dated 'P.A.J. Dagnan/ 1874'.
Black chalk heightened with white.
4 7/8 x 8 5/8 inches
Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouy (1842-1923).
Paris, Société nationale des Beaux-Arts, Etudes, dessins et pastels de M. Dagnan-Bouveret, 1909 , no. 1.
G. Lafenestre, “L’exposition d’etudes, dessins et pastels de M. Dagnan-Bouveret à la Société nationale des Beaux-Arts”, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1909, p. 468.
“Les Dessins d’un grand peintre: Dagnan-Bouveret”, L’illustration, June 11, 1910, no. 3511, illustrated.
Dagnan-Bouveret’s youth was riddled with tragedy. His mother died when he was six years old and his father abandoned him soon after. Left with little inheritance, Dagnan-Bouveret was raised by his maternal grandfather in Melun, and in April of 1869 enrolled into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was first taught by Alexandre Cabanel but soon after moved to the studio of Jean-Leon Gerome. At the Ecole, Dagnan-Bouveret applied himself with exceptional vigor to his studies, with particular attention to the Old Masters, and worked on becoming a highly skilled draughtsman.[i]
Dagnan-Bouveret was a student at the Ecole, in 1874, when he executed the painting of Atalante, for which this drawing is a study. The beauty of Greek mythology challenges all suitors to a footrace in which the loser is punished with death. She remained unbeaten until Hippomenes distracts her with three golden apples and causes her to lose the race. In the painting of 1874 (Fig 1), Dagnan-Bouveret chooses not to depict Atalante with Hippomenes but instead portrays the heroine standing over one of her fallen suitors.[ii]
In this study, as in the painting, Dagnan-Bouveret successfully illustrates the difficult pose of the fallen suitor, mastering the radical foreshortening while still producing a beautiful academic male. The high quality of this sheet, with its precise handling and fine use of the chalk, demonstrates the importance Dagnan-Bouveret placed on drawing and reveals the influence of Gerome’s work on his young student.
It is interesting to note that Dagnan-Bouveret uses his self-portrait to represent the face of the fallen suitor in both the drawing and the final painting. The artist would repeat this technique, not only using his image but that of his wife and son, in later works as well.
Dagnan-Bouveret also executed a drawing for the figure of Atalante as well as a complete composition study in preparation for the painting.[iii]The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon, purchased by the state and was eventually sent to the Musée Municipal in Melun, where it remains today.