Black, red and white chalk, heightened with pastel, on light brown paper. Signed and dated: f. Boucher/ 1752.
523 x 398 mm. (20 ¾ x 17 ⅞ in.)
Sold to a Private Collection.
PROVENANCE: Marquis de Cypièrre, his sale, Paris, 10 March 1845, lot 165; Arthur Georges Veil-Picard (1854-1944), Paris; Maria-Théresia Chaubah née Veil-Picard (bears label from Royal Academy exhibition on back of frame giving owner as Louis Chaubah; by descent.
EXHIBITED: Munich, Residenz, Le Siècle du Rococo, Art et civilization du XVIIIème siècle, 1958, no.255, p.123 in catalogue (as François Boucher, Portrait de Madame de Pompadour); London, Royal Academy of Art, France in the Eighteenth Century, 1968, cat.89 (with wrong dimensions, as François Boucher, Portrait of Madame de Pompadour).
LITERATURE: P. de Nolhac, Boucher premier peintre du roi, Paris 1907, p.58 (as François Boucher, Portrait de Madame de Pompadour); A. Ananoff, François Boucher, Paris 1976, vol.II, p.18, under no.321/2 (listed under replicas or copies, as Coll. Chaubah, Paris; P.Bjurström, Drawings in Swedish Public Collections, French Drawings, Eighteenth Century, Stockholm, 1982, under no.865, note.2 (as replica or copy after François Boucher).
This archetypal expression of Boucher’s vision of female grace clearly became, almost straightaway, a highly desirable composition. Signed and dated, it would appear to be the finest example known of a number of versions, of varying degrees of quality and proximity to Boucher’s own hand. A drawing published by Ananoff as the prime example of this figure, said to have been in the collections of the marquis de Chennevières and Marius Paulme (see Literature, op. cit), and seen most recently at auction in 1974, (Christie’s, 27 November, lot 168), is now considered to be a clear copy and has been referred to as such by Alastair Laing. Other related works are the drawing in the Nationalmuseum Stockholm, (provenance: M.G. Anckarsvard, A. Michelson, by descent and acquired by museum in 1896, black, red and white chalk on brownish paper, 507 x 373mm.) a more linear work, done in fine chalk and with a much less pretty face; the version in the Staedelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt (inv.1228) (529 x 406mm.), less vigorously drawn and also signed and dated 1752 and a third in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg [This . A number of other related works have also been noted by both Alastair Laing and Françoise Joulie in private collections. Alastair Laing, has added that without the possibility of juxtaposition and detailed comparison, he is unable to establish which, if any of the known examples, is the prime version, nor can he exclude that a further example could appear.
Exquisitely drawn, this work was described in poetic terms by Pierre de Nolhac in his 1907 monograph of Boucher: It is her again, there can be no doubt, one of Boucher’s most interesting drawings, executed ‘au trois crayons’, of which an example is in the museum in Stockholm and another in Paris, with M. Veil- Picard. The artist has noted, as if playfully, but with great precision, the slender silhouette of the favourite, in this young woman walking in a park with the poise of a queen. The drawing is harmonious and accurate, the morning light is vibrant, one senses the freshness of Spring; the lady is elegant, delicate, smiling. The full skirt suggests the elegance, slightly bourgeois but so characteristic of the Marquise de Pompadour, the air of authority of the one chosen by the king … What art is needed to render all this or at least to evoke it, just the ‘trois crayons’ of a simple drawing..’
There has been some discussion as to whether the sheet should be called a drawing or a pastel: the 1845 catalogue of the sale of the Marquis de Cypièrre describes it as a pastel: Lot 165 Jeune Femme debout au milieu d’un parc. Elle est vue de profil, marchant vers la droite. Robe traînante avec des plis et des reflets magnifiques. Pastel signé et daté 1752. Pierre de Nolhac in 1907, meanwhile, discusses it in terms of the trois crayon technique and Françoise Joilly also refers to it as a drawing. This difference is surely because the use of pastel is confined mostly to the background, to the flowers and foliage of the park which form a backdrop for the vivid figure of the young woman and the scintillating texture of her satin dress, drawn inblack and red chalk and extensive white chalk. It has also been suggested that the pastel could have been added at a later date but since there are subtle touches of the same blue pastel in the skirt as well as in the background, this seems unlikely. Indeed, another drawing by Boucher, of a Shepherdess in a Landscape showsa similar use of pastel, creating a hazy bloom of foliage, and is signed and dated: f. Boucher/ 1753.2
The most remarkable aspect of this extremely refined drawing is its highly finished, pictorial character. It combines great delicacy in the treatment of the face, the hands and lace ruff, with a painterly freedom in the use of white to convey the crisp, shining folds of the skirt. The effect is sumptuous. Francoise Joilly has attested that its purpose is surely to be a work of art in its own right, a ‘dessin encadré’, which Boucher signed, then allowing repetitions of the image to be made in his workshop to satisfy the demands of collectors. The graceful self-possession of the young woman depicted creates a sense of an entirely autonomous work, even though the she gestures with her right hand to beyond the picture frame. The example of the figure in the Stadelmuseum Frankfurt has been described as a pendant with another drawing in the same collection, of a young woman seen from the back holding a fan Une jeune femme vue du dos tenant un évantail, (inv.1228) (529 x 406mm), which itself relates to a figure in the painting La Fontaine d’Amour of 1748 (now in the Getty Museum, Malibu), as well as to one in the first of six tapestries from the series La Noble Pastorale (woven at Beauvais after Boucher’s designs in 1755)3. The dress and the hair are indeed similar between these two depictions of young women which raises the possibility that they were worked up by Boucher from earlier studies as companion pieces but, unlike the Young Woman with a Fan, this Young Woman seen in Profile, has not been connected to any other known drawing, painting or tapestry design by the artist and would appear to exist in her own right.
As Alastair Laing pointed out, this drawing has the earliest secure provenance of the known versions, coming from the famous collection of the marquis de Cypierre, grandson of Jean-Charles-François Perrin de Cypierre who bought the château d’Auvilliers, from Mme de Pompadour in 1761. Cypierre owned at least twenty-seven drawings and pastels by Boucher as well as eight paintings. In the sale of the collection, the present work was sold for 264 francs, the highest price paid in the section of drawings. Arthur Georges Veil-Picard (1854-1944) from whose family this drawing was sold in 2011, was a passionate collector of 18th century paintings, drawings, pastels and miniatures. He bought entirely according to his own taste and knowledge and over a course of forty years assembled a collection of great quality in his hotel particulier in Paris.
The grand scale of this drawing and the delicate but confident figure represented, combine with the resemblance to Boucher’s first portraits in oil of Mme. de Pompadour to explain its identification as another image of her. Jeanne-Antoinette le Normant d’Etioles, née Poisson, became Louis XV’s mistress in 1745. Boucher’s first dated painting of the Marquise is from 1756 but in 1750 he was already working specifically for her at the chateau, Bellevue, the construction of which Louis V was overseeing. Though the type of female beauty with her large eyes, soft features and rounded upper lip is one seen frequently in Boucher’s work, comparison can be made with what may be Boucher’s earliest portrait of her, the Portrait of Mme de Pompadour, in the Louvre4, showing her standing by a harpsichord, wearing a very similar a l’espagnol dress to that seen here, with its flowing skirt, ruched collar and fulsome sleeves. A further comparison may also be made with the depiction of her in a garden, signed and dated 1759, in the Wallace Collection, London. The date inscribed on the present work of 1752 could be consistent with an interpretation of the drawing as showing Mme. de Pompadour walking in the newly constructed garden of her country establishment. Interestingly Boucher is said to have had difficulties in making true likenesses in his portraits, even according to Mme de Pompadour, and despite being much in demand seems rarely to have accepted commissions outside of his closest circle of patrons.5 Boucher was not only Mme. de Pompadour’s favourite artist but also her drawing master and in the early 1750s he was working almost exclusively to her commission.
1. See under Literature: p ‘C’est elle encore, il n’y a pas lieu d’en douter, qu’esquisse l’un des plus intéressants dessins de Boucher, execute aux trois crayons, don’t un exemplaire est au Musée de Stockholm, un autre a Paris chex M. Veil-Picard. L’artiste a marqué, comme en se jouant,, mais avec une precision singulière, la silhouette menue de la favourite, en cette jeune femme marchant dans un parc d’un pas de reine. Le dessin est harmonieux et serré; la lumière matinale vibre, on sent la fraicheur du printemps; la dame est fine, légère, souriante. De la lourde jupe se détache l’élègance un peu bourgeoise, mais si personnelle, de la marquise de Pompadour, avec les airs autoritaires de l’élue du souverain. Et voice ses traits jolis, mais si mobiles qu’ils n’ont pas de caractère, et aussi ce charme particulier aux êtres maladifs, délicats et volontaires. Quel art faut-il pour render tout cela, ou du moins l’évoquer, par les trois crayons d’un simple dessin!
2. See Colnaghi, An Exhibition of Master Drawings, New York and London, 1998, cat.31.
3. See under Literature, Ananoff, op. cit., cat.320/2.
4. See exhibition catalogue, François Boucher, New York, Detroit and Paris, 1986-7, p.252, cat.59.
5. See, exhibition catalogue, op. cit., 1986-7, p.230-231, cat.52.