Jacques Dumont was a French history and portrait painter, called ‘the Roman’ from his youthful residence at Rome and to distinguish him from other artists named Dumont, notably his fellow-academician Jean-Joseph Dumont. His father Pierre was a court sculptor to the duke of Lorraine and his elder brother, François was also a sculptor. His time in Rome is not well documented but he was certainly exhibiting at the Paris Salon in 1727 and a year later he was received as a member of the Académie Royal de Peinture et de Sculpture. At meetings he terrorized his fellow-academicians with his acerbic and caustic wit. When the engraver Le Bas was refused by the academicians, he remarked, “Stick a chalk-holder up his ass and he’ll still draw better than you.” In 1731 he was appointed painter to the tapestry manufacture at Aubusson and served in that capacity until 1755, forming a school of designers there that raised the overall standards of quality. It is recorded that his contract required six cartoons and three designs for pile carpets annually. When the official paintings school – the École Royale des Elèves Protegés – opened in January 1749, Dumont was appointed governor, but withdrew after three months, citing insufficient funds supporting the new institution.
This pair of delightful chalk drawings emphasize his abilities as a draughtsman. The subject is perhaps one which might have been used in the creation of a tapestry though the composition also suggests that they were intended as finished works in their own right. The abundant foliage is hallmark Dumont as is the playful nature of the Putti, their plump forms rendered confidently in the colourful chalk. Dumont’s rococo manner certainly echoes that of François Boucher, the most well known exponent of the style in painting in France. Given the humour of Dumont it is perhaps intentional that the posture of one Putto in these drawings closely mirrors the pose of the Blonde Odalisque – possibly a mistress to Louis XV – in Boucher’s celebrated canvas of 1752. The other suggests a playful take on Eve reaching up for the forbidden fruit, inferring the sinful nature of over indulgence.