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Sir Edwin Landseer RA, Chalk study of the hand of Laocoön

Chalk study of the hand of Laocoön, c. 1818

Sir Edwin Landseer RA (1802 - 1873)

RA Collection: Art

This vivid chalk drawing of a hand grasping a snake is a detail from the iconic Classical sculpture, the Laocoön (Vatican Museums, Rome). Based on a tragic scene from Greek myth, the tortuous group shows the Trojan priest, Laocoön, and his sons as they struggle in vain against an attack by sea-serpents. A full-scale cast of the sculpture is one of the most important in the Royal Academy's collection and generations of art students drew its sinuous form.

Edwin Landseer joined the Academy Schools at the age of only fourteen and like the other students, began by drawing casts. This study was produced as an example of his work to be approved by the Academy's Council so that he could progress to the life class. The rules required: 'a Drawing or Model of a Figure or Groupe done in the Academy, accompanied by Drawings as large as nature, of a Hand and Foot'. Landseer successfully employed the style which was in vogue at the time, using black and white chalks against a dark ground and combining bold hatched and cross-hatched strokes with smudged shading.

Object details

Chalk study of the hand of Laocoön
Sir Edwin Landseer RA (1802 - 1873)
c. 1818
Object type
Black and white chalk on prepared wove paper

378 mm x 358 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Miss Julia Leslie 1875
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