Phaedra Rejecting the Embraces of Theseus

Object Details

Title:

Phaedra Rejecting the Embraces of Theseus

Artist/Maker(s):

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (French, 1767 - 1824)

Culture:

French

Date:

about 1800

Medium:

Pencil, pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white gouache

Dimensions:

33.7 x 22.5 cm (13 1/4 x 8 7/8 in.)

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Returning home, the bearded Theseus reaches out to greet his wife Phaedra, who shies away from his embrace. Surprised at this cold reception, Theseus looks inquiringly at his son Hippolytus. During his absence, Phaedra had fallen in love with her stepson, and she is now unable to meet Theseus's eyes. The dialogue underneath the picture recounts the verbal exchange. Phaedra says, "I am unworthy of pleasing you or being near you. I can henceforth only hide myself from you." Theseus then turns to Hippolytus, asking, "What is this strange welcome you give your father?" Hippolytus replies, "Only Phaedra can explain the mystery."

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson made this highly finished study as an illustration for a series of deluxe editions of the plays of Racine, a French dramatist from the 1600s. The publisher chose seven artists to illustrate the set, which was dedicated to Napoleon, and retained the original drawings, including this one, after the engravings were made.

Girodet displayed such typically Neoclassical characteristics as firm, linear drawing; carefully shaded three-dimensional forms; and a static, ordered composition. Appropriately, his monumental figures–especially the central figure of Theseus silhouetted in front of an open doorway–seem more like Greek statues than living actors.

Provenance
1810

Pierre Didot the Elder (Paris), [lot 679]

Heim Gallery (London)

Private Collection (United States)

Art Market (New York)

Exhibitions
Salon An XII (1804)
  • Salon, Palais du Louvre (Paris), 1804, (Cat. 212)
French Drawings: Neo-Classicism (February 20 to March 27, 1975)
  • Heim Gallery (London), February 20 to March 27, 1975, (Cat. 50)
French Drawings 1760-1880 (April 17 to May 23, 1985)
  • P & D Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. (New York), April 17 to May 23, 1985, (Cat. 11)
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993, (Cat. 49)
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994, (Cat. 107)
Classicism and Neoclassicism in French Drawing, 1600-1860 (October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995, (Cat.)
Raphael and his Influence Across the Centuries (October 31, 2000 to January 7, 2001)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 31, 2000 to January 7, 2001, (Cat.)
French Drawings from the Age of Greuze (September 10 to December 1, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 10 to December 1, 2002, (Cat.)
A Revolutionary Age: Drawing in Europe, 1770-1820 (January 18 to May 1, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 18 to May 1, 2005, (Cat.)
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767-1824) (September 19, 2005 to January 21, 2007)
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, February 11 to April 30, 2006, (Cat. catalogue by S. Bellenger et. al. 114)
  • Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, October 26, 2006 to January 21, 2007, (Cat. catalogue by S. Bellenger et. al. 114)
Drawing the Classical Figure (December 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009, (Cat.)
Recent Acquisitions in Context (January 11 to March 13, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 11 to March 13, 2011, (Cat.)
Gods and Heroes: European Drawings of Classical Mythology (November 19, 2013 to February 9, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 19, 2013 to February 9, 2014, (Cat.)