July 15, 1822
Paillet (firm), Paris, lot 37
December 13, 1984
Christie's (London), lot 150
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The Invention of Drawing (recto); Sketch of Lower Leg Bones of Human Skeleton (verso)
Joseph-Benoît Suvée (Belgian, 1743 - 1807)
Belgium (Place Created)
Black and white chalk (recto); graphite (verso) on brown paper
54.6 × 35.6 cm (21 1/2 × 14 in.)
During an illicit rendezvous with her lover, the Corinthian maiden Dibutade decided to trace his silhouette on the wall of her father's studio. Joseph-Benoit Suvée rendered this legend of the invention of drawing in his typically polished drawing technique. Dramatic chiaroscuro lighting enhances the theatricality of the scene. The light from a single flame throws large shadows of the lovers' heads onto the wall behind them and creates dark areas under arms and chins, all of which serves to focus attention on their half-lit faces. The same light also highlights the variegated whites on the gathers of Dibutade's toga and the shine of her skin. These carefully observed and skillfully rendered nuances give Suvée's drawing a lively quality.
Scholars believe that Suvée made this drawing as a replica of a similar painting rather than as a preparatory study.