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French, An Académie

Key facts
Full title An Académie
Artist French
Date made early 19th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 80.6 × 64.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Sir Claude Phillips Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG4061
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Académie

This back view of a standing male nude is an académie, which is a study, usually a chalk drawing or an oil painting, made from a live male model in the studio. It is one of two académies in the National Gallery’s collection.

Such life studies formed part of the classical training of (male) artists from the eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, particularly in France. This example is almost certainly French and probably dates from the early nineteenth century. It is falsely signed: david 1805. Although not by David, it may be by a student in his studio, but it has not been possible to confirm this.

Models typically held ‘action’ poses, in part to display the musculature beneath the skin. A slightly raised foot was frequently a feature of these poses because, as here, it helped reveal the muscles of the lower leg. This model’s props – a shield, a spear and a helmet – are ones that were often used in these studies.

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