François LEMOYNE (Paris 1688-1737)
Head study for the Love of Virtue in the Apotheosis of Hercules, circa 1733
Pastel, three pencils and stump
25 x 20 cm
Slightly insulated, on old blue paper
Our pastel is an unpublished study for one of the main figures on the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule in the Palace of Versailles, The Apotheosis of Hercules. It is the study for the head of the Love of Virtue, who guides and pulls by the forearm an almost intimidated Hercules towards his bride, the nymph Hebe.
The explanatory text of the iconography of the composition (see Xavier Salmon, François Lemoyne à Versailles, in L'Apothéose d'Hercule de François Lemoyne au château de Versailles, Alain de Gourcuff éditeur, 2001, Paris, p.101-102), published in October 1736 in the Mercure de France, tells us as follows: The whole Work rolls on this thought: The Love of Virtue elevates man above himself and makes him superior to the most difficult and perilous works; obstacles vanish at the sight of the interests of his King and his Homeland, supported by honor and led by loyalty, he arrives by his actions to immortality. (…)
Here is the general idea of the subject.
Hercules, presented to Jupiter by the Love of Virtue, is drawn in a chariot by the Geniuses of the same Love.
The importance given by Lemoyne to his figure of the Love of Virtue can be measured by the care given to this study, enriched in pastel like the famous study for the head of Hebe kept in the British Museum (see Jean-Luc Bordeaux, François Le Moyne, Arth