Red chalk on cream laid paper
Support: Cream(3) laid paper, perimeter mounted to a false margin of cream(2) board
Sheet: 38.8 x 30.3 cm (15 1/4 x 11 15/16 in.); Secondary Support: 45.6 x 37.1 cm (17 15/16 x 14 5/8 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1999.48
As part of their training in the late 18th century, French artists practiced drawing têtes d'expression, or expressive heads, that display subtleties of human emotion. Greuze made this chalk study in preparation for a painting in which the Roman emperor Septimius Severus rebukes his notoriously ruthless son, Caracalla, for attempting to assassinate him. Although Greuze based this face for the figure of Caracalla on a Roman portrait bust, he imaginatively adapted the facial expression to dramatize Caracalla’s resentment and humiliation during the confrontation.
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