“In order to succeed in what was for printmakers a perilous period, Prud’hon had to have more than sensitivity to contemporary taste,” notes Elizabeth Guffey. “Prud’hon’s print Love Reduced to Reason, which went on sale in later 1793 … was an unqualified success… . [The artist] followed it up with a series of similar projects, including Virtue Struggling with Vice: Reason Speaks, Pleasure Entraps; Love Caresses Before It Wounds; Innocence Prefers Love to Wealth; and Love Seduces Innocence, Pleasure Entraps, Remorse Follows.”
Unlike many artists who allowed the publisher to handle the printing, publication, and sale of their work, Prud’hon kept a hand in every aspect of the process. His prints sold for as much as 7 livres (compared to the 3 livres charged for prints by Jacques-Louis David, 1748-1825). The investment and the sale of Prud’hon’s work was shared between his publisher and friend Constantin, the engraver (in this case Roger), and the artist.
For this print, Reason Speaks and Pleasure Carries One Away (also translated Pleasure Entraps), Prud’hon made two drawings, one ink and the other in two colors of chalk. Both are in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum. It may be that the artist and the engraver were considering a two color engraving, although no example of this has been found. Also shown below is the similar Virtue Struggles with Vice.
[left]: Prud’hon, La Raison parle et le Plaisir entraîne (Reason Speaks and Pleasure Carries One Away), ca. 1795-1799. Chalk drawing. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop, 1943.888
[right]: Prud’hon, La Vertu aux prises avec le Vice (Virtue Struggle with Vice), ca. 1795. Chalk drawing. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop, 1943.884
Elizabeth E. Guffey, Drawing an Elusive Line (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 2001). Marquand Library ND 553.P9G83 2001