François Léon Benouville dit Léon Benouville
Paris, 1821 – 1859
Study of a leaning young woman held by the hand of another character.
Black chalk and heightened white chalk on gray paper.
406 x 255 mm – 15 63/64 x 10 1/16 in.
Stamp of the artist François Léon Benouville (L. 228c) lower left.
Born in Paris in 1821, François Léon Benouville apprenticed in the studio of François Édouard Picot at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1837. Younger brother of the landscape artist Achille Benouville, he started at the Salon of 1838. After obtaining the great Prix de Rome for painting in 1845, Léon left for his stay at the Villa Medici in the company of his brother, winner of the grand prize for historical landscape the same year. In Italy, Léon devoted himself to history painting, developing a predilection for religious subjects. On his return to France, he obtained public recognition with Saint-François d’Assise, transported dying to Sainte-Marie-des-Anges, blessed the city of Assisi, exhibited at the Salon of 1853 and purchased for the Luxembourg museum ( now in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris). He died prematurely at the age of 38 of typhoid fever.
This study of a leaning woman held by a man’s hand is preparatory for a group of Christians (fig. 1) located in the background behind the two martyrs in the center of the arena in the painting The Christian Martyrs Entering the Amphitheater by the artist in 1855. Léon François Bénouville received the official order in 1854 for this imposing canvas following the presentation of a sketch of the same subject at the Salon of 1852 for which he won a second medal and which was acquired by the Director of Museums for the Luxemburg. Extolling the virtues of courage and hope, this martyrdom of the first Christians – Saint Blandine accompanied by a male saint – allows the artist to deploy his knowledge of ancient history and is part of a renewal of the history painting desired by the Academy of Fine Arts.
Three other studies for the leaning young woman are known: two are kept at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen: Study of a Leaning Nude Woman (fig. 2) and Study of Hand and Drapery (fig. 3 ) are kept at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen and another entered the art market in 2009.
Condition report – traces of gluing on the four corners of the sheet on the back, some light foxing on the entire sheet
 Oil on canvas; 4.59 x 3.91m; Louvre Museum, Paris; inv. 20042. Work deposited at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
 Drawing in black chalk, wash and watercolor on paper laid down on canvas; 1.21 x 1.065m; Louvre Museum, Paris; inv. 23.717.
 Black chalk heightened with white chalk on gray paper; 392 x 280mm; Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, Inv. 897.6.91 A (bis). See Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, Léon Benouville (1821-1859). Catalog raisonné of the work, Nantes, 1981, p. 162, D.181.
 Sanguine on buff paper; 345 x 260mm; Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, Inv. 897.6.80 B. See Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, op. cit., p. 162, D. 182.
 Paris, Thierry Maigret study sale, March 27, 2009, no. 196.