- François Boucher
- Study of a seated young female nude extending her hands to her right foot
- Red, black and white chalk, with graphite and touches of blue chalk on buff paper;
signed lower left, in black chalk: f. Boucher
his sale, Paris, Société de L'Alliance des Arts (L.61), 1 December ff. 1842, lot 604;
Private Collection, Paris;
with Stair Sainty Matthiesen, New York, 1987 (François Boucher: His Circle and Influence, 1987, no. 26, reproduced p. 48 (B&W) and color pl. III);
with Simon Dickinson, Ltd, London,
where acquired by Bernadette and William M.B. Berger, Denver, Colorado, in 1996
New York, The Frick Collection, and Fort Worth, The Kimbell Art Museum, The Drawings of François Boucher, 2003-4, (catalogue by Alastair Laing), p. 108, no. 34, reproduced pp. 10 and 109
A. Ananoff (in collaboration with Wildenstein Institute), François Boucher, Paris 1976, vol. II, pp. 36 & 37, under no. 338, no. 338/3, reproduced fig 978
This highly finished drawing was probably intended as a work of art in its own right, to be admired by its owner for all its gently titillating qualities. Its allure and charm certainly appealed to Marie-Guillaume-Thérèse de Villenave (1762-1846) who was in possession of this fine drawing in the early 19th Century (see Provenance). Born in Haute Garonne, Villnave was the founder of a Revolutionary journal, the Rôdeur Français (1789-90). In 1793 he was, however, arrested under suspicion of counter-revolutionary plotting, but was acquitted by the Revolutionary tribunal in Paris later in the same year. Thereafter, his career flourished and he was a prominent figure in literary circles. He was also a great collector of books, drawings and engravings. This fine sheet was offered in the first sale from his collection, held during his lifetime, in 1842. The auction took place in Paris and was the first sale to be orchestrated by the newly founded Société de l’Alliance des Arts, the brainchild of Théophile Thoré, whose aim was to make sales more official and give more credence to the works of art, symbolised by the introduction of a stamped mark, seen here in the lower left corner.
The image of a young girl seated in profile with one leg across the other thigh appears in a number of Boucher’s works, and the artist's practice of reusing figures and motifs across many of his commissions and projects is discussed in the note to lot 85. The same pose can be seen (in reverse) in one of Boucher’s revered works, Diana Bathing, exhibited at the Salon in 1742 and now in the Louvre (fig. 1).1 Alastair Laing, who dates the present drawing to circa 1755, remarks that the pose recurs in no fewer than three engravings purporting to be after Boucher. He describes these prints in relation to the present sheet in his 2003-4 exhibition catalogue entry (see Exhibited), concluding that there is no substantial evidence to suggest that there is any particular connection between the prints and this highly finished drawing.2
The Berger nude is among the most beautiful of Boucher’s female figure studies and shows the artist’s skill at striking the perfect balance between sensuality and vulnerability. Boucher creates areas of definition using the black chalk in her curls and in the drapery but overall his application of all trois crayons remains appropriately soft, to retain the general aesthetic allure of the drawing.
1. François Boucher, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts; Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 1986-87, cat. no. 39, reproduced p. 201
2. The Drawings of François Boucher, exhib. cat., op.cit., 2003-4, no. 34