Lot 16
  • 16

François Boucher

120,000 - 180,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • François Boucher
  • The Charms of Country Life
  • Black chalk within a drawn oval;bears old attribution, lower right: F. Boucher 
  • 266 by 318 mm; 10½ by 12½ in


Jean Masson (L.1494a),
his sale, Paris, 7-8 May 1923, lot 20, (with its pendant, lot 19) to James Schwob d'Héricourt,
Per Ananoff, with Mme Schwob d'Héricourt in 1966;
with Paul Prouté, S.A., Paris, 1967, cat. no. 27;
with Jean-Pierre Selz, Paris,
where acquired in March 1989 


Paris, Hôtel de Jean Charpentier, Exposition François Boucher (1703-1770), 1932, p. 28, no. 65;
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections, 1999, no. 23;
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, De Watteau à Fragonard, les fêtes galantes, 2014


Hermann Voss, 'Boucher's Early Development: Addenda,' The Burlington Magazine, 96, no. 616, July 1954, p. 209, reproduced  p. 208, no. 26;
François Boucher, gravures et dessins provenant du Cabinet de Dessins et de la collection Edmond de Rothschild au Musée du Louvre, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1971, p. 53. under no. 25;
A. Ananoff, l'Oeuvre Dessiné de François Boucher (1703-1770), Paris 1966, vol. 1, p. 77, no. 218;
Idem., François Boucher, Lausanne and Paris 1976, vol. I, pp. 266-267, no. 147/I, reproduced, p. 266;
P. Jean-Richard, L'oeuvre gravé de François Boucher: François Boucher dans la collection Edmond de Rothschild, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins Collection Edmond de Rothschild, Inventaire général des gravures: École français, I, Paris 1978, pp. 77-78, under no. 197

Catalogue Note

Spontaneous and energetic, this delightful country scene is Boucher’s première pensée for the painting, Les Charmes de la Vie Champêtre, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 1).Solely executed in black chalk, this rapid yet well considered sketch, drawn in the late 1730s, demonstrates the artist’s initial ideas for this commission, including an early concept for the format of the painting, which in the final version is rectangular, rather than oval.  With its extraordinarily dynamic handling and intensely rich composition, this remarkable study shows off Boucher’s drawing style at its most robust and impressive, its visual impact all the more striking thanks to the superbly fresh condition of the sheet. François Boucher’s pastoral scenes form a large part of the artist’s oeuvre and he wholeheartedly adopted this genre of painting, creating his own unique formula quite different from the archaic template that was often associated with ‘The Pastoral.’  His settings and backdrops were often a mixture of his plein air studies combined with later studio embellishments.  Boucher used this genre to his advantage creating his own beguiling rococo recipe, lending his works that fantastical sparkle, so adored by many.

This formula is very evident in the present study, where Boucher has chosen to place his protagonists in an intriguing trio that leaves the viewer guessing as to what romantic associations may be taking place.  In fact the trio in the final painting differs rather from the sketch.  In the drawing we see the suitor on bended knee holding the arm of the young woman seated in full profile, while another young lady is nestled provocatively behind.  In the painting, Boucher has moved the young lady, in the middle of the trio in his drawing, to the front of the group, where she reclines against her female companion, her full figure revealed as she stretches out.  It is now no longer clear who the suitor on bended knee is addressing.  In the oil, Boucher has also introduced an ambiguous, and rather coy, element: the reclining female figure wags her finger at the advancing gentleman.  Alastair Laing has observed that the figures in the drawing are in more rustic attire than their counterparts in the final painting, where they are dressed in a manner that is more galant than pastoral.  Laing also remarks that the artist must have made another, more finished, drawing before executing the oil painting now in the Louvre.  According to Ananoff, the painting was supposedly in the collection of Louis XV and was commissioned by the King in 1737, but Alastair Laing doubts this provenance, which is not supported by any evidence or documentation.2

Just as was the case for his works of other types, the popularity of Boucher’s pastorals meant that many of his images were disseminated in other media.  François Aveline (1718-c. 1787) must have used this drawing as the model for his engraving of the same subject, in reverse, published in 1742, as although the composition has acquired an ornamental surround, it includes the figures in their preliminary positions, as seen in the Barnet drawing.

At the time of the Masson sale in 1923, the Barnet drawing had a pendant, an oval black chalk sketch of two couples playing on a see-saw (‘La Bascule’), and these drawings remained together until 1967.4  The present whereabouts of La Bascule is, however, unknown and no painting of that subject has emerged.

We are grateful to Alastair Laing, who, having examined the drawing in the original, has reaffirmed the attribution to Boucher.

1. Ananoff, op.cit.,1976, vol. 1, pp. 266-7, no. 147, reproduced p. 267

2. Exhib. cat., op. cit., 1999, under no. 23, p. 54, footnote 2

3. Jean-Richard, op.cit.,pp. 77-78, no. 197, reproduced 

4. Exhib. cat., op. cit., 1999, p. 54, fig. 23.3