Lot 64
  • 64

François Hubert Drouais

50,000 - 70,000 USD
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  • François Hubert Drouais
  • A boy playing with a house of cards, on a gilt upholstered footstool
  • inscribed on a card: CHA...
  • oil on canvas, an oval
  • 28 x 23 inches


Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild, London and Halton (1842 - 1918);
By descent to his daughter Almina, Countess of Carnavon;
Her sale, London, Christie's, 22 May 1925, lot 69;
Where acquired by Wildenstein for £1,050;
By whom sold to Mrs. James B. Haggin, New York, in 1926;
By descent to her sister Mrs. William M. Haupt, New York, in 1965;
By whom given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1965 (Inv. no. 65.242.1)


Fort Worth Art Center, Spectrum: A Cross Section from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 8 March - 12 April 1970 (unnumbered catalogue);
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Jean Siméon Chardin, 1699-1779: Werk, Herkunft, Wirkung5 June - 22 August 1999, no. 104.


K. Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by artists born in or before 1865: a summary catalogue, New York 1980, vol. I, p. 49, reproduced vol. III, p. 516;
K. Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by artists born in or before 1865: a summary catalogueNew York 1995, p. 380, reproduced;
D. Hempelmann, in H.C. Verlag, Jean Siméon Chardin, 1699-1779: Werk, Herkunft, Wirkung, Karlsruhe 1999, p. 258, cat. no. 104, reproduced. 

E. Boilvin, Paris


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in beautiful condition. The canvas has an old glue lining. The varnish is now slightly dull, and the picture may be dirty. The paint layer is unabraded, except for some slight weakness in the hair to the right of the forehead. There is a thin scratch in the highlight in the forehead on the left side. There are a few tiny dots of retouching above the hat in the upper center, and a small group in the lower center to the right of the pocket. The work could certainly be hung in its current state.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Though known mainly for his fashionable, Rococo portraits of France's elite, Drouais has in the present work created a charming narrative.  A young boy, well-dressed with a blue silk sash tied at his waist, is building a house of cards upon an upholstered footstool.  He looks directly out at the viewer, while his hands precariously present his masterpiece.  

The subject matter of a young boy playing with a house of cards was likely inspired by Jean Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), who painted a similar scene on at least four occasions (fig. 1).  Starting in the 17th century, playing cards were popular amongst adults, and leftover cards from old decks would be given to children to play with.  The theme of the house of cards, however, would have been seen as a moralizing vanitas subject, meant to remind the viewer of the frailty of human life and the frivolity of games.

Drouais's composition was popularized through engravings by Boilvin, and multiple autograph versions are known.  The prime version of this composition, signed and dated 1766, was sold in the estate sale of H.L. Bischoffsheim, at Christie's London on 7 May 1926.  It was accompanied by a pendant which depicted a young girl blowing bubbles, also a common symbol of the vanitas. A third version of the composition, along with a version of the pendant, was with Derek Johns in 2001. A pair of drawings which served as studies for the engravings were sold on 23 May 1899 in Paris, lot 22 (as by both Drouais and Boilvin).