As far as can be ascertained, almost nothing is known of Jean-Jacques Lequeu’s personal life in Paris. He never married or had children, but from this series of detailed drawings, held in the reserved collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale, we know that he was fascinated by sexual anatomy, producing material that would not be out of place in any early sex manual. We can also imagine, from his touching drawings of a sleeping woman, that he knew something of the sweet intimacy of close relationship. He has sometimes been portrayed as a lonely artist living in an attic in Montmartre, but these drawings suggest a more sociable side.

As a typical representative of the artisanal class that tried, with the enlightenment and the Revolution, rising socially and breaking free of the world of trade, Lequeu became disenchanted when the new order and hierarchies were being created. A child of the visionary eighteenth century, with its licentiousness and grand schemes for palaces and gardens, he pursued a free and singular path. Reduced to employment in a subordinate office, ignored by those in power and far from his roots, he stalked his dreams with the obstinacy of an acute and inquisitive observer, without compromise or fear of judgement.