François-Joseph Navez (Belgian, 1787–1869)
The Body of Christ, ca. 1813–16
Graphite, charcoal and white highlights on paper, 15 1/4 x 23 1/16 in.
Like most students in his day, Navez developed his skills by copying works by other masters. The body of Christ in this drawing is an exact copy, but in reverse, from the large altarpiece, The Descent from the Cross by Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754–1829; 1789, oil on canvas, 425 x 233 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris). Navez trained at the Brussels Academy, which awarded him a scholarship to study in Paris, where he worked in the studio of Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) from 1813 to 1816. It was during this period that he could have seen Regnault’s altarpiece and made this drawing. (The reversal of the composition would suggest that Navez actually worked from a printed reproduction.) When David was exiled in 1816, Navez returned to Brussels with his teacher and continued to emulate him.