ÉTIENNE PIERRE ADRIEN GOIS (1731-1823)
TOBIAS BURYING THE DEAD
Signed & dated l.r. Gois inv. 1775
Pen & ink with brush & grey and brown washes
24 x 16 cm | 9 1/2 x 16 1/3
Private collection, France
Drawings by Gois, primarily a sculptor, are comparatively scarce, and the present work is all the more important as it relates to the first major sculpture he exhibited: his entry into the Prix de Rome of 1757, which would win him a gold medal for sculpture and earn him a place at the French Academie in Rome. The location of that work is now lost, and so our drawing may either have been a visual record of the piece (the sculpture itself was described as a Bas-relief en plâtre), particularly as Gois dated the sheet to eighteen years after the event. The subject of the work was mis-transcribed in the 19th century by one biographer as Tullie faisant enlever les morts, which has led to subsequent repetitions of this mistake; however, contemporary accounts confirm that it was indeed a depiction of Tobias burying the dead Assyrian Jews who had been killed in battle against Nineveh which Gois submitted to the competition. In its execution, our drawing can be closely compared to Hannibal before the Senate in Carthage, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which demonstrates the same deft combination of brown & grey wash to create a dramatic lighting effect within a closely-cropped classical interior.
Gois studied under the painter Étienne Jeaurat, before moving to the workshop of Michelangelo Slodtz, a well-known French sculptor who worked in the Baroque tradition. Gois won the Prix de Rome with what seems to have been his debut entry, and is said to have had a 'fruitful' period spent in Rome in the subsequent three years. Towards the end of his time as a pensionnaire in Rome, he completed a Mater Dolorosa bust which, when exhibited at the Salon of 1760, won him further acclaim and established his credentials among the Parisian cognoscente. Sure enough, he received full Academician status in 1770 and submitted both a marble bust of Louis XV intended to decorate the la salle des séances in the Academie, and a terracotta model of Aristaeus mourning the loss of his bees.
In July 1776, the Academy appointed Gois as an assistant professor, and he was later given a full professorship almost five years to the day, in 1781, replacing Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée the Elder. Today, Gois’ works can be found in numerous museums and churches around France, including the Musée de Beaux-arts in Dijon, the Louvre and Palais de Justice in Paris, Versailles, and the Cathedral of Saint Etienne in Sens.