Head of a Sleeping Bacchante

Object Details

Title:

Head of a Sleeping Bacchante

Artist/Maker:

Gustave Courbet (French, 1819 - 1877)

Culture:

French

Date:

1847

Medium:

Fabricated black chalk with stumping, lifting, and scratching

Dimensions:

50.2 × 38.7 cm (19 3/4 × 15 1/4 in.)

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The grape leaf crown atop this young woman's head implies that she is one of the many followers of Bacchus, revelers who lived lives of drunkenness and sexual abandon in the classical past. Her costume however, reveals that she was a contemporary of the artist. Scholars believe that the young woman depicted is actually one of Gustave Courbet's four sisters, Zélie. Her closed eyes and softly parted lips reveal that she has fallen into a state of deep slumber. Courbet contributed a sense of psychological complexity to the drawing by depicting her in dark shadows.

This richly toned drawing illustrates Courbet's disdain for the clean lines prescribed by the French Academy. He preferred to use thick deposits of conté crayon, vigorously smudged, to create texture and convey mood. This monumental life-sized drawing, like many of his paintings, was meant to create a jolting visual impact. Although Courbet included his formal signature in the lower right corner of the drawing, he also prominently placed his characteristic lower-case g on the young woman's neck, below her tendrils.

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Provenance
by 1882

M. Beillet

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Alfred-Emanuel-Louis Beurdeley, 1847 - 1919, Paris

June 2-4, 1920

Galerie Georges Petit, lot 92 (Beurdeley sale)

1920

André Dézarrois, 1890 - 1939, Paris (purchase, Beurdeley sale)

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Private Collection

Exhibitions
Exposition des oeuvres de Gustave Courbet (May 1882)
  • École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris), May to May, 1882
Exposition d'Art Français (May 15 to June 16, 1918) (Preface by G. Geffroy)
  • Musée d'art et d'histoire de la Ville de Genève (Geneva), May 15 to June 16, 1918
Exposition Gustave Courbet (May to June 1929) (as "portrait d'une soeur de Courbet.")
  • Musée du Petit Palais (Paris), May to June, 1929
Le Dessin Français: de Fouquet à Cézanne (November 1949 to March 1950) (as "Bacchante endormie")
  • Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), November to December, 1949
  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam), December, 1949 to January, 1950
  • Musée de l'Orangerie (Paris), February to March, 1950
De Watteau à Cézanne (July 7 to September 30, 1951)
  • Musée d'art et d'histoire de la Ville de Genève (Geneva), July 7 to September 30, 1951
To Create a Living Art: 19th Century Drawings (May 1 to July 15, 2001)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 1 to July 15, 2001
Casting Characters: Portraits and Studies of Heads (November 4, 2003 to February 1, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 4, 2003 to February 1, 2004
Defining Modernity: European Drawings 1800-1900 (June 5 to September 9, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 5 to September 9, 2007
Gustave Courbet (October 8, 2007 to September 28, 2008)
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (Paris), October 8, 2007 to January 28, 2008
Courbet: A Dream of Modern Art (October 14, 2010 to January 10, 2011)
  • Schirn Kunsthalle (Frankfurt), October 14, 2010 to January 10, 2011
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
Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th Century French Drawings and Prints (February 9, 2016 to May 15, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 9 to May 15, 2016
Related Media
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    Audio: Head of A Bacchante