L’Enlèvement de Psyché (The Abduction of Psyche) by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, estimate €200,000-300,000 at Grisebach

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Now aged 90, Zwirner was a pioneer in the field of Contemporary art, introducing numerous now renowned artists to the German market. His private passion was, however, more eclectic, encompassing Modern works and Old Masters.

The top Zwirner lot is L’Enlèvement de Psyché (The Abduction of Psyche), a 21x 17in (54 x 44cm) black chalk and pencil drawing, grey-washed and heightened in white, the work of Pierre-Paul Prud’hon.

It captures the scene when the slumbering Psyche is carried away by the wind god Zephyrus and his assistants at the behest of Eros. The drawing is closely related to the oil painting in the Louvre which was exhibited at the salons of 1808 and 1814.

Prior to the salon, Prud’hon was famous for his graphic work; only afterwards was he able to establish his reputation as a master painter. His depiction of Psyche caused no little stir at its first exhibition. Napoleon was so delighted by Prud’hon’s work that he awarded him the Légion d’honneur.

The gouache on offer now for €200,000-300,000 is a completed composition in its own right and was perhaps conceived as the preparatory work for a print. It differs in certain details from the finished painting and also from a preliminary drawing that also belongs to the Louvre. For instance, a windswept tree in the corner did not make it to the final composition. Furthermore, Zephyrus is accompanied by two helpers – in the painting there are three.