- François Boucher
- The Marriage of Jacob
- Black chalk and stumping, heightened with white chalk;
bears initials and date in pencil, lower left: F.B. 1737 (?)
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Boucher has chosen to represent the moment when Laban has gathered all the people of the village together and produced a feast to celebrate the marriage between Jacob and his eldest daughter, Leah. The figure of Rachel can be seen weeping in the background, reminding us of the Genesis story where Laban deceives Jacob by switching his daughters on the day of the wedding, causing much distress to Rachel who had previously been promised to Jacob.
Boucher's lively narrative is rendered in black chalk with areas of white heightening and his figures are all believably staged across his composition. A highly finished drawing, it is a successful work of art in its own right. It does not appear to be related to any known painting by Boucher, although the artist did produce a number of other compositions representing scenes from the life of Jacob. Alastair Laing, who, from images, has kindly confirmed the attribution to Boucher, suggests a possible dating to the 1750s and remarks that it must have been a drawing made for a collector.
Despite producing religious devotional images early in his career, there appears to be a total absence of religious painting in Boucher's oeuvre until 1750. This lack of output on Boucher's part was not due to any decline in this genre in France in the 18th Century as convents and parishes were still commissioning artists to decorate their churches. It does, however, suggest that Boucher had plenty of other secular projects and commissions that occupied his time and that afforded him to live comfortably without the extra income provided by ecclesiastical commissions.
In 1750 Boucher executed a painting of The Adoration of the Shepherds, commissioned by his patron, Madame de Pompadour, for her chapel in Château de Bellevue. This painting marked a pivotal moment in Boucher's professional life, sparking an increase in the number of religious paintings that he produced in the last twenty years of his career.
Boucher did produce a number of drawings depicting the Lives of the Patriachs, however these are all mainly executed in pen and ink. The emergence of this splendid chalk drawing is therefore not only exciting but extremely important in terms of shedding light on a lesser known aspect of Boucher's career.