Study of Saint Benedict by Jean II Restout


Jean II Restout

Rouen, 1692 – Paris, 1768

Study of Saint Benedict

Black chalk and white highlights on gray paper.

Numbered top right: n 50.

321 x 237 mm – 12 5/8 x 9 5/16 in.

Provenance: Alfred Normand (1910-1993), his stamp (L. 153c) on the back and inscription in pencil on the mount: J. RESTOUT / The ecstasy of St Benoit / 1st thought for the painting of the museum of Tours.



Born in Rouen in 1692 into a family of artists, he became a pupil of his uncle Jean Jouvenet, a leader in religious painting in France at the end of the 17th century. Received at the Royal Academy in 1717, he remained in Paris, not making the traditional study trip to Italy, and exhibited regularly in all the Salons.

Typical of Jean Restout’s drawings in black chalk and white highlights on colored paper, this study could be a first thought for the painting of the Ecstasy of Saint Benedict (fig. 1)[1] dated 1730, designed to adorn the Benedictine abbey of Bourgueil and preserved today in the Museum of Fine Arts in Tours (inv. 793-2-1).



           The Ecstasy of Saint Benoit was commissioned from the artist with its pendant The Death of Saint Scholastica by the Maurist Benedictines for the Abbey of Saint-Pierre-de-Bourgueil[2]. The two saints are both founders of the Benedictine order, and their lives are intertwined in hagiography. Saint Scholastica, who was the twin sister of Saint Benedict, warns her brother of her own death by unleashing a storm; he then saw the soul of his sister fly away to heaven in the form of a dove. Restout placed the dove in the episode of the death of the saint, when he illuminates Benedict’s cell with a globe of fire. The first museum guide, published in 1825, gives an accurate description of the composition: “Saint Benedict praying in his cell, on the night of October 30, 536, had a vision in which he beheld the soul of Saint Germain, Bishop of Capua , carried to heaven by the Angels in the middle of a globe of fire. The painting represents the beginning of this vision. The painter has captured the moment when the celestial light suddenly dissipates the darkness of the night”. Restout is once again faithful to the text of Jacques de Voragine: “one night when the Servant of God was looking out of the window and praying to God, he saw a light spread through the air which dissipated all the darkness of the night. Now, at the instant, the whole universe offered itself to his eyes as if it had been gathered together under a ray of the sun and he saw the soul of Saint Germain, Bishop of Capua taken to heaven”[3]



This study could also be compared to a composition now lost The prophet Isaiah[4], pendant to the Prophet Ezekiel in the chapel of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice[5] produced in 1748. A drawing (fig. 2) of this lost painting executed by Jean Restout, kept in the Sulpician library in Paris[6], presents the prophet seated on clouds in an attitude close to our sheet.






Condition report – Mounted on photo paper.


[1] Christine Gouzi, Jean Restout 1692-1768, history painter in Paris, Arthena, Paris, 2000, p. 52, ill. No. P. 42, p. 220-221

[2] Painting now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Tours (inv. 1793-2-2).

[3] Cf. Text extracted from the catalog raisonné Peintures françaises du XVIIIe siècle. Museum of Fine Arts of Tours / Château d’Azay-le-Ferron by Sophie Join-Lambert (Sivana Editoriale Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen, 2008)

[4] Christine Gouzi, op. cit., p. 288, n° P. 143

[5] Idem., p. 287, n° P. 142.

[6] Idem, p. 384, n° D. 100.

Framing options

Pas de cadre, Cadre Louis XVI plat Or (4cm), Cadre Louis XVI plat Noir et Or (4cm), Cadre plat (4cm) teinté ébène, Cadre inversé (3,3 cm) teinté ébène, Cadre Louis XVI or (3cm)