(Laon 1743 - Paris 1811)
Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus(?)
445 x 592 mm. (17 1/2 x 23 1/4 in.) [sheet]
The attribution of this oil sketch, previously given to Jean-Baptiste Deshays (1729-1765) is due to Alastair Laing. The free handling of the paint in this nocturnal scene finds parallels in a number of coloured oil sketches by Berthelémy, such as the Queen Tomyris Dipping the Head of Cyrus into a Basin of Blood in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nîmes, which is a study for a large painting of 1766 in the same collection. Laing also notes some stylistic comparisons with two freely executed oil sketches of Apollo and Sarpedon5, both of which are preparatory for a painting that was Berthelémy’s morceau de reception for the Academie Royale in 1781, today in the Musée Saint-Didier in Langres, as well as with a sketch 'en camaïeu brun' of The Nurse of Nero Pouring his Ashes into the Tomb of his Ancestors, which was on the art market in 1985-1986.
The distinctive facture of the present sheet is particularly close to a monochrome oil sketch on paper of Nessus Offering his Poisoned Tunic to Dejanira in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Quimper. Although the Quimper sketch has been attributed to Jean-Baptiste Deshays, Laing has recently suggested that it, like the present sheet, is more likely to be the work of Berthelémy.
A similar subject to the present sheet, though different in composition, is found in another stylistically comparable oil sketch by Berthelémy; an Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus in the Snite Museum of Art of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Eugene Victor Thaw, New York.