Thomas Hovenden, Study for “In Hoc Signo Vinces”

Charcoal on paper
Credit Line
Woodmere Art Museum: Gift of Mr. Stiles Tuttle Colwill, 2018
16 ½ in. x 11 in.

This sketch by Thomas Hovenden is a study for a figure in his painting In Hoc Signo Vinces, which debuted in the Paris Salon of 1880. The title refers to the insignia of Constantine the Great and means “in this sign you will conquer.” The painting, which is in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, depicts a volunteer soldier from the Wars of the Vendée during the French Revolution. 

The figure in this study appears in the background of the painting. She is packing a loaf of bread to send with the volunteer. In the finished painting, Hovenden shows her facing outward instead of at this angle. In both this drawing and the final painting, Hovenden’s attention to depth is apparent in the shading on the woman’s clearly downcast face. 

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