Study for a Ceiling Decoration

by Michel Dorigny

This drawing of a nude carrying a garland and supporting a shield or rondel was plainly made for a ceiling decoration. Lit and proportioned for viewing from below, the figure would most likely have appeared with similar ones in a kind of frieze along the curved or angled cove where the ceiling met the wall. Bold, confident strokes of red chalk here carve out the muscular forms of the nude, creating a powerful illusion of relief. French ceiling decoration of the period generally included either actual plaster sculptures or trompe l’oeil painting sculptures, flanking and framing more frankly two-dimensional element. For the finished decorative ensemble, the empty shield or rondel here at left would surely have been filled with a painting–a portrait, a coat of arms, an allegory, or a historical scene.

Red chalk (1650s)

by Attributed to Michel Dorigny (French, 1617-1665)

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