Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard

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Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard
"Je me meurs": Atalide Faints upon Hearing Bajazet's Fate
ca. 1800
Pen and brown ink, heightened with white.
10 3/16 x 7 13/16 inches (258 x 198 mm)
Bequest of Gordon N. Ray, 1987.
Gordon Norton Ray (1915-1986), New York.

Gerard's drawing is preparatory for an illustration to Jean-Baptiste Racine's "Bajazet," one of the plays included in Pierre Didot's 1801 deluxe edition of Racine's "Oeuvres" (Paris, Pierre Didot l'aîné, 1801, 3 vols.). The play, a tragedy in five acts written in 1672, was inspired by contemporary history based on oral sources, in particular, the murder by Ottoman sultan Murad IV of his potential rivals, including his brothers. In this scene from Act IV, Scene III, Atalide faints in the arms of the sultana's servant Zatime upon hearing of the imminent death of her lover, Bajazet, on the orders of the sultan returning victorious from battle.
Didot's three-volume edition of Racine's "Oeuvres" set a new standard for luxury in French book production, with full-page illustrations for the six plays included, each play being illustrated by the same artist for consistency. The Morgan preserves a copy of Didot's publication (of which only 250 examples were printed) in the Gordon Ray Collection (PML 140193-195), as well as three other preparatory drawings, two by Antoine-Denis Chaudet (1763-1810), one for "Esther" (Acc. No. 2002.12) and the other for "Athalie" (Acc. No. 2002.13), and one by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767-1824) for "Phèdre" (Acc. No. 1997.3).

Associated names: 

Racine, Jean, 1639-1699. Bajazet.