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Bust of a Half-draped Young Woman in an Oval, her Head Turned to Look over her Left Shoulder,



French School (0-0)
Bust of a Half-draped Young Woman in an Oval, her Head Turned to Look over her Left Shoulder,
Aux trois crayons (black, red and white chalks) on fawn paper
AGLC 351 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

Neither of the two previous attributions of this drawing seem satisfactory: it bears no relation to anything by Jean-Marc Nattier (1685- 1766), nor to any of the very few women’s heads drawn by Baptiste-Marie Pierre (1714-1789), who, unlike his former master, François Boucher (1703- 1770), did not make drawings of women’s heads for the market. Nor is it easy to see who else might have done it; yet it is not the work of a petit maître – it has the breadth and confidence of a drawing by a major master. The artist to whose works it seems to come closest in facial type and pose is Jean-Baptiste Deshays (1729-1765; cf. especially his oils of A Hooded Coquette with a Fan and A Young Woman Holding a Book), but the lightness of touch of the draughtsmanship is quite foreign to his much heavier use of chalk. There is also what can only be a quite fortuitous resemblance to a pastel by Claude-Jean-Baptiste Hoin (1750-1817) of a Head of a Woman Turned to Look over her Left Shoulder, but Hoin’s drawings of heads of women are much more fully worked; only in the clothes of his drawing of A Seated Man Resting his Elbow on a Table is his handling of black chalk at all similar – and the drawing must anyway be by someone born earlier than him.

The oval within which the young woman is drawn might suggest that the drawing was a study for a portrait, but it is too intimate for that; it was evidently for some ‘fancy’ picture such as the two cited paintings by Deshays or the pair of ovals of La Tourterelle and Le Chant by Louis Lagrenée (1734- 1805) engraved by Étienne Fessard (1714-1774). It is to be hoped that its exposure in this catalogue will bring it to the attention of someone who can recognise its author.

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