Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund
This is a preparatory drawing for an illustration in the “Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers,” edited by Denis Diderot and, until 1759, Jean le Rond d’Alembert. In this landmark achievement of the Enlightenment, Diderot aimed to assemble, critique, and distribute the complete knowledge of the time, including crafts and trades. Distinguished artists such as the draftsman and illustrator Jean-Michel Moreau the Younger observed the activities of artisans and laborers and rendered them in drawings that make the work process legible to the reader. Moreau’s description of period detail, his rendering of the streaming light reflected on the back wall, and the view through the open door all make this drawing engaging and meaningful beyond the description of the tile-layer’s tasks. As an eyewitness account of the tilers’ work, the drawing ennobles labor and emphasizes the benefits of first-hand observation for research and learning.