Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait drawing of the painter Sébastien Bourdon (1616-1671) is a brilliant example of early eighteenth-century French portrait art. During the late seventeenth century Rigaud had risen to become the leading portraitist of the French court and aristocratic society with a painting style which combined an elegant appearance with sensuous colouristic effects. His famous state portrait of Louis XIV (today in the Louvre in Paris) set the standard against which the other courts of absolutist monarchs measured themselves. Although highly esteemed, relatively few of Rigaud's portrait drawings have survived - making the group of four excellent sheets owned by the Städel Museum all the more important. They were formerly part of the collection of Johann Friedrich Städel and document his interest both in eighteenth-century French drawings and in portraits. The outstanding work in this group is this portrait of the artist. Bourdon, who had died in 1671, was one of the founding members of the Académie Française and also its rector for a while.
Rigaud portrayed him after an oil painting that he personally owned and presented to the Académie in 1735. The drawing, executed exclusively in black and white chalk on blue paper, shows the subject through a picturesque stone window frame. Bourdon seems to be about to turn his attention to the easel discernible in the background, having turned round briefly to look at the viewer. The voluminous drapery enveloping him creates an inward movement which draws the viewer's gaze into the picture. The painter's tools - palette, paintbrush, portfolio, book and sheets of paper - are arranged on a stone balustrade in front of the window. Rigaud's chalk technique differentiates skilfully between the textures of the thick dark hair, the velvet jacket, the silky sheen of the drapery and the stone frame. In spite of this precision the drawing as a whole looks masterful and generous. In 1733, the copper engraver Laurent Cars (1699-1771) created an engraving of this work, a brilliant masterpiece with which he was accepted into the Académie. Rigaud's drawing must have been completed only a short while previously. Whether he was already thinking of having the drawing made into a print when he executed it is not certain. The multiple references to the Académie nonetheless suggest that this was the case.
In March 1815, the Frankfurt businessman and banker Johann Friedrich Städel bequeathed his entire fortune and art collection to a foundation which was to be named after him: the 'Städelsches Kunstinstitut'. However, he also dedicated the foundation to the citizens of Frankfurt immaterially, wishing it to be an "adornment and of practical use" to Frankfurt's citizenry. He was thus the first ordinary citizen in the German-speaking region to found a public art museum: the present-day Städel Museum. When he died, his collection comprised 476 paintings, some 4,600 drawings, almost 10,000 printed graphics and valuable books.