Barthélemy Prieur (c. 1536 - 1611)
- A Youth
- Paris, France
- c. 1600
- Heavy, possibly solid lost-wax cast, with reddish varnish. Verde antico and yellow Siena marble socle.
- Statuette, Height: 21.36 cm
Height: 35.33 cm, with socle
socle, Height: 14 cm
socle, Width: 8.1 cm
- Sixteenth Century Gallery
- Numerous casts of this model survive today, demonstrating great and lasting appreciation for a very successful composition. The naturalistic pose chosen by the artists has great subtlety and elegance, enhanced by the contrast between the smooth surfaces of the body and the finely detailed area of the head and arms crossed above it, framing the face. This private gesture conveys at the same time a glimpse into a psychological state and great physicality as the naked body is offered to the viewer without barriers, with great erotic charge.
The very fine modelling of the face, hands and hair contrasts with the somewhat rough modelling of the feet. The area between the thighs has not been reworked despite the presence of various casting flaws.
Some art historians have stressed the link between this brilliant male nude and Michelangelo’s figure of a Dying Slave for the unfinished tomb of Pope Julius II. Others have downplayed this connection, noting that the basic pose was widely known already in the early 16th century and dates back to classical prototypes, in particular a figure of Narcissus also called The Genius of Eternal Rest, a Roman marble of the late 2nd – early 3rd century AD today at the Louvre.
However, it is possible that, just like Michelangelo’s Slave, this figure might have also been conceived to serve some architectural function, for example as a support in a cabinet.
The current attribution to Prieur is based on stylistic affinity with other male and femals figures once attributed to the Master of the Genre figures (see S128-30). The reddish patina found on almost all the surviving casts also points towards a French origin. Even before Prieur became almost universally named as the author for these figures, another statuette also in our collection, the figure of an Acrobat (S91), had been closely linked to the Youth due to the peculiar anatomy of the slender bodies and the smooth finish of the modelling. Particularly close to S74 is also another model attributed to Prieur representing Bacchus with a Panther (a cast is in the National Gallery, Washington).
A cast of this model appears prominently in a painting by Rubens, A Bearded Man in profile holding a bronze figure (Private Collection).