Lot 86
  • 86

François Boucher

35,000 - 45,000 USD
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  • François Boucher
  • Juno Asking Aeolus to Release the Winds
  • Pen and black ink and brown wash


Sale, Paris, Piasa Auction, Drouot Richelieu, 26 June 1998, lot 75,
purchased by Thomas Williams, London,
where acquired by Bernadette and William M.B. Berger, Denver, Colorado


Two Centuries Of French Drawings from The Collection of Jeffrey E. Horvitz, exhib. cat., Cambridge, Harvard University Art Museums, et al., 1999-2000, p. 230, under cat. no. 61, fig. 3;
The Drawings of François Boucher, exhib. cat., New York, The Frick Collection, and Fort Worth, The Kimbell Art Museum, 2003-4, p. 197, under cat. no. 75;
Esquisses, Pastels et Dessins de François Boucher dans les collections privées, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée Lambinet, 2004, under cat. no. 64


Laid down on old mount. Some light foxing, barely visible. Medium remains strong and vibrant. Sold in a carved and gilded frame.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This dynamic and fluid pen and ink and wash drawing depicts the powerful opening to Virgil's Aeneid.  The subject, Juno Commanding Aeolus to realease the Storm Winds, is one that is pursued by Boucher on a number of occasions.  Its dramatic narrative conveys the story of Juno, who summons the God of the storm winds, Aeolus, to release these in order to destroy the fleet of the Trojans, promising him the hand of Deiopea in return.

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.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