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    Black & white chalks on prepared yellow-brown paper

    35 x 28 cm



    Dr Theodore Besterman (1904-1976), Banbury [L.5539];

    Private collection, Kent, U.K.





    We are grateful to Dr Jonathan Yarker for suggesting the attribution of this work. Haydon produced numerous such sketches on this distinctive yellow paper, working swiftly in black and white chalks to capture the essence of the figure he was studying. The Royal Academy holds more than one hundred such sheets, many of which are also after the Antique, as well as dozens of Haydon's anatomical studies. That the R.A. now has the greatest number of this ill-fated artist's works on paper is perhaps a cruel irony, as Haydon and the Academicians were at loggerheads for much of his career. Our work was once in the collection of Theodore Besterman, a wealthy bibliographer and writer who began collecting the best English drawings that he could find in the 1960s. 



    The so-called ‘Apollo Belvedere’, named after the room in the Vatican complex in which it has been exhibited for more than five centuries, is arguably one of the most famous and oft-copied antique sculptures in history. Although Haydon himself never travelled to Italy, he will have been intimately familiar with the sculpture thanks to the many casts that populated the R.A. Schools’ classrooms. Indeed, he used the sculpture as the model for the head of the archangel Uriel in his 1845 painting, ‘Uriel Revealing Himself to Satan’, one of his final Royal Academy exhibits. One of the studies for the painting is presently with Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd., London, having once belonged to another great collector of English drawings, Leonard Gordon Duke. 





    Benjamin Haydon is almost as famous for his unfortunate life as he is for his art, with biographies titled ‘Neglected Genius’ (1990) and ‘A Genius for Failure’ (2009) giving some indication of his modern-day reputation, which is not entirely undeserved.


    Although a brilliant draughtsman, anatomist, history painter and lecturer, Haydon was dogged throughout his life by financial woes: he fell out with the Academy when, at just 21, his first exhibited work was hung in a distant corner of the Summer show; he fell out with Richard Payne Knight (one of the leading patrons and connoisseurs of his day) and Sir George Beaumont over the value of the Elgin Marbles; and, having never truly been out of debt, at the age of 60 he committed suicide.


    Despite these misfortunes, he could, among other accolades, claim to have influenced the British political establishment’s taste for grand historical painting. Furthermore, in spite of his animosity towards the Academy, they are now the holders of his most important anatomical studies - among the finest of the 19th century. He counted many luminaries as close friends, including the fellow history painter Sir David Wilkie, William Hazlitt, Sir Robert Peel and Lord Carlisle.


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