Jean-Baptiste Greuze

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Jean-Baptiste Greuze
The Game of Morra
Pen and brown ink and wash with gray wash over graphite.
9 3/4 x 14 1/4 inches (248 x 363 mm)
Thaw Collection.

Blind stamp on mount at lower right, ARD.

Possibly William Cox sale, Christie's, London 8-9, 15-18 February 1884m lot 250, (as "Man Playing at Monte"); sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 20 March 1899, lot 41, repr. (La Dispute au cabaret. Monture ancienne. Signee: ARD); perhaps Abbe Therelin sale, Paris, October 1912 (according to Marielle Digard, not in Lugt); private collection, France; sale, M. Digard/Crouot Richilieu, Paris, 25 November 2001, p. 5, repr, (La Dispute au cabaret; first appearance of Therelin provenance); Flavia Ormond Fine Arts, Ltd., London; Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, New York.

The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY, "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection", 2017. Exh. cat., no. 182, repr.
The Thaw collection of master drawings : acquisitions since 2002. New York : Morgan Library & Museum, 2009, no. 13, repr.
Flavia Ormond Fine Arts Ltd., London, "Master Drawings", 2004


Watermark: grapes inside circle, surmounted by crown, countermark, three lines of illegible text.
After a modest early success in Paris, Greuze left for Italy in 1755 with his patron Louis Gougenot, abbé de Chezal-Benoit. White the abbé returned to Paris in spring 1756, Greuze decided to remain in Rome, finding inspiration in the dress, character, and manners of the city's inhabitants.
This sheet, executed before Greuze's return to Paris in April 1757, is related to a slightly larger drawing in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, that the artist exhibited at the Salon that year. The rather sordid subject, which is set in an appropriately ramshackle courtyard, is the betting game of morra, in which two competitors display a certain number of fingers from their right hands while guessing out loud the total number of fingers that will be presented by both players. The Pushkin sheet, dated 1756, corresponds closely to the present drawing and was more carefully executed with fewer traces of graphite underdrawing. For example, in the present sheet, the artist extended the lines of the central arch into other architectural elements at left, and horizontal lines bisect the two diagonal beams. These elements of a working drawing are corrected in the Pushkin sheet, supporting the notion that the Morgan drawing may be a preliminary study for the larger scale finished composition.
A red chalk figure study in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (acc. no. 14796), has been linked to the composition of the Morgan and Pushkin sheets. A male figure is depicted in breeches, a loose blouse, and vest, with a length of fabric knotted around his shoulders, similar to the vestments worn by the standing morra player at right. The Hermitage drawing, however, shows the figure standing upright and facing left, his left foot on a step--an entirely different attitude and pose than that found in the full compositions. The connection is not strong enough to warrant the conclusion that the Hermitage drawing represents Greuze's intention to produce a painting of the scene.

Associated names: 

Thaw, Eugene Victor, former owner.
Thaw, Clare, former owner.

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