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Slave Overcome with Suffering

Félix Lecomte

(1727 - 1817) | 994.1.1

Date : 1769 | Medium : Marble

Acquired in 1994

Sculptor of the Monument to StanisławLeszczynszki in Nancy Cathedral in 1774 and The Virgin of the Vow of the Cathedral in Rouen in 1775, Lecomte made his debut in stone sculpture when he exhibited Slave Overcome with Suffering at the 1769 Salon alongside two bas-reliefs, a sketch and a head study. After completing his studies at the École royale des élèves protégés and the Académie de France in Rome, he had recently returned to Paris to be admitted into the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture.

He was yet to prepare his acceptance piece on the theme of Oedipus and Phorbas (1771, Louvre Museum), which would grant him membership of the Académie.

Slave Overcome with Suffering was a sculpture very close to the art of acceptance pieces in terms of the format (less than half life-size), type (nude with drapery) and theme (suffering). Nevertheless, the suffering is not that of the hero but rather that of an anonymous being who is overcome by his condition. Such a theme echoes the concerns of the Enlightenment philosophers who disparaged slavery in the name of natural justice. In terms of form, the work brings together the study of man stripped completely bare, in his natural state, and the study of expression, eliciting pity.

The youthfully muscular slave stands in front of a rock to which his left foot is bound.

His clasped hands are stretched imploringly to the heavens. The head of loose-curled hair thrown back recalls the Hellenistic dying Alexander. Finely-honed marble reveals finish and detail such as the nascent hairs of the face and contrasting materials: rough rock, polished drapery, and chiselled, matt quivering flesh.