1829. An intricate drawing of a bunch of grapes, a survival from the Age of Enlightenment in France, first prize in the annual competition given to a young woman, by one of the women who ran the school. Free drawing schools were established in France from the 1740s onward, with the aim of training and supporting poor children. The painter Ferrand de Monthelon was concerned about idleness of children, after leaving school (age 10) and before beginning apprenticeship (age 15). The schools were supported by charitable donations and aimed to form the sound basis for further training in a dizzying list of trades.* One of the most prominent free drawing schools was established in Paris by the painter Jean-Jacques Bachelier, former artistic director of the royal porcelain manufacture at Sevres, in 1766. Called "Ecole royale gratuite de dessin", it was initially only open to men. Bachelier was critical of the Guilds apprenticeship training as expensive and uninspiring. It continues today as "École nationale superieur des arts decoratifs".
This drawing is a survival from another school that also trained women, run by women. According to the "Almanach Royal et National pour l'An 1839", this school was directed by two sisters, the Misses Frère de Montizon, for young people destined to working in the arts and industrial professions. They were instructed in drawing & lithography. There was an annual prize awarded and honorable mentions, instituted in 1828, the year before this drawing was done. The judges were the "Membres de la Commission de surveillance" and the artwork was publicly exhibited. The drawing is signed by Mlle Justine Frère de Montizon, M. David and M. Garnier, the judges & members of the "Commission".
Inscribed "École royalle et gratuite de dessin pour les jeunes personnes / concours pour les prix de l'an 1829 ce 27 juillet. Mlle. T. Frère de Montizon professeur. Premier Acuellir (?) déservé a Mlle. Flore Lécoufler le 30 Septre.1829. Par le Membres de la Commission de Surveillance. Par les Membres de la Commission de Surveillance / Garnier President Membres de l'Institute / David Membres de l'Institut".
Exquisite pencil drawing approx. 6 x 9" on paper 9 1/4 x 12 3/4". Manuscript inscriptions beneath the drawing. Small pinholes in the lower left corner (perhaps where the award was first pinned on exhibition?). In remarkable condition.
A rare survival and an accomplished drawing.
* De Munck, Bert, Steven L. Kaplan, Hugo Soly, edit.. "Learning on the Shop Floor: Historical Perspectives on Apprenticeship", 2007. Item #26237