Medium: Oil On Unlined Canvas
Size: 102 x 82 cm
Bruno Chenique has persuasively demonstrated that this was painted by Gericault for the 1812 concours de torse, at the École des Beaux Arts in which he was inscribed on 5 February 1811; Inventory after death of Théodore Gericault, 1824, and sale of his estate November 1824, tableaux et esquisses de Gericault, nos. 14 or 15; Private collection, France, June 1942 (according to a letter noted by Germain Bazin, op.cit. below); Paris, collection Georges Renand (1879-1968), (from 1963, according to Lem, op. cit. below); Vente Georges Renand, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 15 mars 1988, n° 24 as (transl.) Géricault, Homme nu à mi-corps, oil on canvas, 100 x 80 cm (painted in 1812 for the concours de torse), sold for 1 269 700 Francs; Zurich, Galerie Bruno Meissner, 1991; Edmondo di Robilant (Dover Street Gallery), 1991; Private collection, New York 2011.
F.-H. Lem, “7. Esthétique de Géricault. C : le peintre de figures,” Le Peintre, n° 259, 15 février 1963, p. 9, reproduced on the cover page as “Géricault, Torse d’étude, 1817-1818, 99 x 81 cm, collection Georges Renand;”Philippe Grunchec, Tout l’œuvre peint de Géricault, introduction by Jacques Thuillier, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, p. 95, n° 61 F, reproduced erroneously under 61 E : “[Auteur inconnu],” Homme nu à mi corps, oil on canvas 98 x 79, Paris, collection particulière.” Grunchec incorrectly noting : “exemplaire inédit,” Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, vol. II, L’œuvre, période de formation, Paris, Bibliothèque des arts, 1987, pp.273-274, 368, detail reproduced fig. 223 (p. 273), and under catalogue n° 133, reproduced “Géricault, Torse d’homme de profil, le bras droit levé,” oil on canvas and incorrect measurements (sight size): 97.6 x 79 cm, private collection; Lorenz Eitner, “Book Reviews. Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents, et catalogue raisonné, By Germain Bazin. Vols I, II, III,” The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXIII, n° 1057, April 1991, p. 256, 257 note 13; Philippe Grunchec, Tout l’œuvre peint de Géricault, introduction par Jacques Thuillier, Paris, Flammarion, 1991 [1978 edition, reviewed and augmented], p. 96, n° 61 F, reproduced erroneously under 61 E: “ [Auteur inconnu] Homme nu à mi corps, Zurich, Galerie Bruno Meissner/ h/t 100 x 80/ Hist. Georges Renand (Sale, Paris, Drouot-Richelieu, 15 mars 1988, n° 24, Tableau à rapprocher de celui de Forestier (1787-1872) primé en 1812 lors du concours de la Demi-Figure peinte à l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts” (noting that Germain Bazin had given the work to Gericault although, despite the very high quality, he believed there was no definitive evidence that Gericault had participated in the 12 August 1812 figural competition, since at that time Gericault’s entry in the École in 1811 was as yet undiscovered); Bruno Chenique (text 15 September 2011), asserting the status of this painting as an autograph work of Théodore Gericault; This painting will be included in the Catalogue raisonné des tableaux de Théodore Géricault, actually in preparation, by M. Bruno Chenique.
The painting was cleaned and old restoration removed in 2011 by Mme Laurence Baron-Callegari (Restaurateur du Patrimoine, diplômée de L’IFROA) a restorer at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. She was chosen because of her experience cleaning and restoring the nation’s paintings by the artist that were included in the 1992 Géricault exhibition at the Grand Palais.
Géricault was a profoundly important figure in the history of French painting, perhaps best known for his powerful The Raft of the Medusa (Musée du Louvre, Paris); he deeply influenced artists such as the young Delacroix, who indeed posed as one of The Raft‘s dying figures. Géricault first gained fame at the Salon of 1812, the year of the work here, aged only 21, with his Portrait équestre de M. D.*** (today in the Musée du Louvre and called Officier de chasseurs). The painting won a gold medal and Landon wrote that the portrait: ‘was seen on public view with all the more interest [because] it is the first [Salon exhibited] work of a young painter who, it is said, has been handling a brush for two years at most..’ Although Géricault died tragically young, he became one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement.
The painting here was the artist’s submission for the 1812 concours de la Demi-Figure, a competition at the École des Beaux-Arts; fellow students’ paintings from the competition that year show an identical nude male model in the same contorted pose.
Germain Bazin acknowledged in his three-volume catalogue raisonné that the painting here was of extremely high quality and attributed the stunning academie to Géricault, despite Bazin’s lack of definitive evidence that Géricault had ever studied at the École or there participated in the concours.
Yet definitive proof of Géricault’s inscription at the École des Beaux Arts on 5 February, 1811 was discovered subsequent to the literature of scholars Eitner, Grunchec and Bazin between 1978 and 1991. Grunchec in fact noted that despite Bazin’s giving of the work to Géricault, and ‘the painting’s extremely high quality‘, there simply was no definitive evidence that Géricault had participated in the 12 August 1812 figural competition (since at that time Géricault’s entry in the École in 1811 was as yet undiscovered). Géricault’s participation in similar competitions, like the prix de Rome, has also been confirmed by a sketchbook of the artist’s recently bought by the Getty, Los Angeles. This submission to the 1812 competition (won by the forgotten painter Forestier), can now be unquestionably credited to the artist and M. Bruno Chenique, who wrote an article in 2011 on the painting, will includes it as a fully autograph work in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the painter.