There is a certain ambiguity surrounding Boucher's sketches for this subject and their relationship to his painting for the Hôtel of Jean-François Bergeret de Frouville, now in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth (fig. 1).1 This ambiguity is largely due to the fact that the majority of the surviving sketches are horizontal in format and Boucher's painting in Fort Worth is an upright canvas.
Scholars have debated these studies in relation to each other and to the painting and more recently Alastair Laing has provided a plausible sequence of execution, in terms of the sketches for this subject, and he also addresses two recent discoveries, one square format oil sketch and a painting by a follower of Boucher that replicates that same design.2
Alastair Laing begins his sequence with two chalk studies, one in black chalk and one in red, that were both sold at Christie's in the 1970s and '80s.3 The Berger drawing comes next in Alastair Laing's timeline and appears to be Boucher's first pen and ink drawing of the subject. The composition remains fairly close to the earlier chalk studies except for the exclusion of the figure of Deiopea and slight modifications to the figure of Aeolus. The next drawing in the sequence is a more worked up and painterly composition that is in the Jeffrey E. Horvitz Collection, Boston.4 In the Horvitz drawing, Deiopea has been re-introduced and Aeolus is now standing in front of his cave. Another pen and ink drawing, with less wash, of the same composition, is at The Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts.
The discovery of an oil sketch en camaieu brun in a German private collection and a painting by a follower of Boucher sold at Christie's in 2000 introduces more pieces to this rather complex puzzle. Both of these compositions have been turned around and Aeolus is seen on the left with more prominence given to the Nereids than in the previous studies. The painting in Forth Worth sees the figure of Aelous returned to right and there is indeed more emphasis on the Nereids, which both these discoveries anticipate.
Throughout all these compositions the most important and pivotal figure is Aeolus, whose positioning and contrapposto is clearly a focus for the artist. Boucher concentrated on this figure in two separate studies, one a powerful black and white chalk sketch, now in the Jeffrey E. Horvitz collection, Boston.5
The Berger drawing is part of a fascinating and important group of studies, which are very revealing of the way in which Boucher worked on and developed his ideas across a variety of media, when developing an important commission.
1. A. Ananoff, L'Opera completa di Boucher, Milan 1980, fig. LX
2. The Drawings of François Boucher, exhib. cat., New York, The Frick Collection; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 2003-2004, pp. 196-7, under no. 75
3. Sale, London Christie's, 6 July 1977, lot 93 (black chalk); sale, London, Christie's, 3 April 1984, lot 81 (red chalk)
4. The Drawings of François Boucher, exhib. cat., op.cit., 2003-4, no. 75
5. ibid., no. 66
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale