Bar-sur-Aube 1823 – Paris 1893
Signed and inscribed Eglise de sainte Eustache/ chapelle des oeuvres de miséricorde/Biennourry.
Black chalk on grey-blue paper, squared for transfer.
445 x 287 mm – 17 1/2 x 11 5/16 in.
Provenance – Alfred Finot, Troyes, his mark (Lugt 3627) ; W. M. Brady & Co, New York.
Destined to become the favourite artist of the imperial court, Biennourry began to learn the art of painting at the École des Beaux-arts from Martin Drölling. The Prix de Rome winner in 1842 and accepted for his first Salon in 1849, he devoted himself mainly to portraits and religious painting, participating in decoration and restoration of various Parisian churches.
In the present drawing, the figure holding a stick is preparatory for the figure of a pilgrim in the decoration Les Oeuvres de Miséricorde(The Works of Mercy)painted in 1854 in a chapel of the church of Saint-Eustache. Other preparatory studies for this composition are in the New York Metropolitan Museum and in the Pierpont Morgan Library.
After completing the decoration of the Empress’s apartments and the Emperor’s study at the Tuileries (destroyed during his lifetime in the 1871 fire of the palace), he resumed exhibiting regularly at the Salon in the late 1860s submitting historical compositions with antique subjects: Apelles painting the judgment of Midas andAesop and his master Xantus(1867 and 1869 respectively, both at the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Troyes).
Biennourry’s drawings, often executed in black chalk heightened with white chalk on coloured paper, bear witness to his attachment to academic draughtsmanship, particularly that of the 17thcentury, but perceived through the filter of the linearity of Ingres. The way he prepared figures for his paintings with beautiful, large studies in fact recalls the method introduced by Simon Vouet and largely adopted by Charles Lebrun, as well as the same choice of postures, attitudes and classical gestures of the figures. They are represented kneeling or standing, with arms outstretched, in postures that are both expressive and restrained, and elegantly wrapped in wide draperies. The squaring and annotations frequently found in his drawings also indicate the meticulous methodology of this artist, whose professional trajectory is however considered unique and whose personality was sometimes seen as whimsical.
Condition report – Very good condition. Laid down.