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Joseph-Marie Vien presented this sketch in a six-part submission for pre-selection for the 1743 Prix de Rome. Based on the unresolved nature of the paintings, it was a surprise to many that Vien was deemed eligible for competition and eventually won the prize. While this was reflective of the declining state of the Prix, with its unfashionable privileging of history painting at the expense of the pastorals and allegories that had become fashionable, the award was prophetic. Vien would become France’s most highly awarded painter and its leading teacher, and one of the earliest exponents of the Neo-classical style.
The subject of Vien’s painting suggests something of this historical context. Joshua, a disciple of Moses and his successor, leads the Israelite invasion of Canaan and the Promised Land. During a final, fraught battle for the town of Gibeon, Joshua prays for extended daylight so as to assure what would become a great victory.
Hippolyte Delaroche (auch Paul Delaroche; * 17. Juli 1797 in Paris; † 4. November 1856 ebenda) war ein französischer Historienmaler des akademischen Realismus.
This is one of the earliest Neoclassical paintings created in France. Inspired by the excavation of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, painters like Vien began to include classical
architecture, furniture, and costumes in their work. Vien also changed his style of painting by favoring smoother surfaces, finer brushstrokes, and cooler colors. The artist transmitted this style to his pupil Jacques-Louis David, the best-known Neoclassical painter.
This painting is among the earliest depictions of "Sweet Melancholy," a subject derived from traditional emblems that became very popular in the late 18th century. The woman is not a tragic mourner or a brooding intellectual, but rather a gently regretful figure. The letter on the table may have brought news of a distant or lost love, while the dove underscores the sweetness of the scene.
Cleveland Museum Ohio