Michel Dumas (French, 1812–1885)
Head of a Youth: Study for The Parting of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Before Their Martyrdom, ca. 1852
Black chalk, stumped, heightened with white on wove paper, 21 1/2 x 19 1/4 in.
Signed lower right: Mle Dumas
Gift of DeCourcy E. McIntosh
This fine study of the head of a youth reveals the careful preparations Dumas made before painting his masterpiece, The Parting of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Before Their Martyrdom (1852, Louvre, Paris). Academically trained artists regularly made detailed studies of the figures in their composition, sketching their bodies, clothing, hands, and head in great detail, though the subtlety of these preparatory works were often minimized or lost in the finished piece. Dumas’ drawing is an excellent example of such preparation, and he has given great attention to the musculature of the man’s neck as well as his contemplative expression. Dumas’s detailed work evidently paid off––Pope Pius IX awarded him the Heart of Saint-Sylvester for the painting, and the work was exhibited at the Exposition de la Porte-du-Peuple to much acclaim.