Lot 80
  • 80

FRANÇOIS BOUCHER | A young woman, seen in profile, walking in a park, traditionally identified as a Portrait of Madame de Pompadour

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Ecole Française du XVIIIe siècle, entourage de François Boucher
  • A young woman, seen in profile, walking in a park, traditionally identified as a Portrait of Madame de Pompadour
  • Black chalk with stumping and red chalk, heightened with white chalk, with touches of pastel;
    signed and dated in chalk, lower left: f. Boucher / 1752


Casimir Perrin, marquis de Cypierre (1784-1844),
his posthumous sale, Paris, 10 March 1845, lot 165 (as François Boucher);
Arthur Georges Veil-Picard, Paris (1854-1944),
Seized from the above at the Banque de France (Vault 63), Paris by the
Devisenschutzkommando (DSK) on 29 October 1940;
Transferred from the Louvre to Neuschwanstein, Bavaria and to the Jeu de Paume, Paris;
Repatriated to France on 13 November March 1945 and subsequently restituted to the Veil-Picard family on 16 April 1946;
by descent to Maria-Theresia Veil-Picard, Mme. Louis Chaubah,
sale, Paris, Christie's, 1 April 2011, lot 87 (as François Boucher et Atelier);
with Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd, London


Munich, Residenz, Le Siècle du Rococo, Art et civilisation du XVIIIème siècle, 1958, no, 255 (as François Boucher, Portrait de Madame de Pompadour); 
London, Royal Academy of Arts, France in the Eighteenth Century, 1968, no. 89 (with incorrect dimensions, as François Boucher, Portrait de Madame de Pompadour)


A. Michel, François Boucher, Paris 1906, p. 127, cat. no. 2284;
P. de Nolhac, Boucher premier peintre du roi, Paris, 1907, p. 58 (as François Boucher, Portrait de Madame de Pompadour);
A. Ananoff and D. Wildenstein, François Boucher, Paris, 1976, vol. II, p. 18, under no. 321/2 (as a reproduction or copy after François Boucher);
P. Bjurström, Drawings in Swedish Public Collections, French Drawings, Eighteenth Century, Stockholm, 1982, under no. 865, note 2 (as the original of all the various versions);
H. Bauereisen and M. Stuffman, Französische Zeichnungen im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, exhib. cat., Frankfurt, 1986-1987, under no. 87


Partially laid down on to a thin sheet of paper and subsequently hinge mounted to a modern acid free mount. There are some very minor stains and slight areas of discolouration to the extremities of the sheet, in particular to the upper left corner. There are some other, very slight stains and areas of minor surface dirt to the sheet, however these do not detract from the overall appearance of the drawing. The combination of media remains in very fine condition throughout this highly impressive sheet with both the chalk and pastel fresh and vibrant throughout.. Sold in a carved and giltwood 18th Century style 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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

It is her again, there can be no doubt, one of Boucher’s most interesting drawings, executed ‘au trois crayons’, of which an example is in the museum in Stockholm and another in Paris, with M. Veil-Picard. The artist has noted, as if playfully, but with singular precision, the slender silhouette of the favourite, in this young woman walking in a park with the poise of a queen. The drawing is harmonious and accurate; the morning light is vibrant, one senses the freshness of Spring; the lady is elegant, delicate, smiling. The full skirt suggests elegance, slightly bourgeois but so characteristic of the Marquise de Pompadour, the air of authority of the one chosen by the King … What art is necessary to render all this, or at least to evoke it, just the ‘trois crayons’ of a simple drawing.”
- Pierre de Nolhac, 1907

This exquisite drawing, signed and dated by the artist and executed on an ambitious scale, whilst simultaneously demonstrating draughtsmanship of the highest quality, is an archetypal expression of Boucher’s vision of female grace and, according to Alastair Laing who has recently examined it in the original, unquestionably the finest of the nine versions of this composition known to exist.

Traditionally identified as a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, it is perhaps unsurprising that such a desirable depiction should have resulted in the creation of multiple versions, of varying degrees of quality and proximity to Boucher’s own hand. Those versions that warrant further mention include a drawing, published by Ananoff as the prime example of this figure, said to have been in the collections of the marquis de Chennevières and Marius Paulme, and seen most recently at auction in 1974, but no longer considered an authentic drawing by Boucher.1 Other related works include drawings in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm,2 the Städel Museum, Frankfurt3 and the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg,4 as well as further sheets, known to both Laing and Françoise Joulie, that remain in private collections, including one, inferior to the present work, included by Joulie in the exhibition at Gammel Holtegård in 2013.5

The most remarkable aspect of this extremely refined drawing is its highly finished, pictorial character. It combines great delicacy in the treatment of the face, the hands and lace ruff, with a painterly freedom in the use of white to convey the crisp, shining folds of the skirt. The effect is sumptuous. The graceful self-possession of the young woman depicted creates a sense of an entirely autonomous work, even though she gestures with her right hand to beyond the picture frame. The example of the figure in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt is one of at least three versions that are or were paired with a pendant depicting A young woman seen from the back holding a fan,6 a figure that is found in the painting La Fontaine d’Amour,7 now in the Getty Museum, as well as in the first of six tapestries from the series La Noble Pastorale. The dress and the hair are indeed similar in these two depictions of young women, which raises the possibility that they were worked up by Boucher from earlier studies as companion pieces but, unlike the Young Woman with a fan, this Young Woman seen in Profile, has not been connected to any other known drawing, painting or tapestry design by the artist and would appear to exist in her own right. Alastair Laing finds this surprising and remains perplexed by certain aspects of the drawing, such as its unique nature within Boucher’s oeuvre, and the lack of any record of it, or other known versions, in the 18th Century.

Laing has, however, recently reconfirmed that the present drawing has the earliest secure provenance of the known versions, coming from the celebrated collection of the marquis de Cypierre, who owned at least twenty seven drawings and pastels by Boucher as well as eight paintings. In the Cypierre sale, the present work was sold for 264 francs, the highest price paid for a drawing in the sale, before subsequently entering the equally illustrious collection of Arthur Georges Veil-Picard, who was himself one of the most celebrated connoisseurs and collectors of his time.

Whilst the purpose and precise origin of this drawing still remain something of a mystery, and its character and groundbreaking technique, in particular the enthralling combination of trois crayons and blue pastel, is more or less unique within Boucher’s oeuvre, the logical assumption must surely be that Boucher created this imposing, almost painterly drawing, as a highly finished work of art in its own right.

We are grateful to Alastair Laing for his kind assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.

Sold in an elaborate carved and giltwood French frame.

1. Ananoff, op. cit., pp. 17-18, no. 321/2, reproduced
2. P. Bjurström, French Drawings: 18th Century, vol. 4, of Drawings in Swedish Public Collections, Stockholm 1982, no. 865, fig. 865, reproduced
3. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Inv. no. 1229
4. Ananoff, op. cit., under no. 321/2
5. F. Joulie, François Boucher. Fragments d’une vision du monde, exhib. cat., Gl Holtegaard, 2013, p. 107, no. 35, reproduced
6. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Inv. no. 1228
7. Ananoff, op. cit., p. 16, no. 321a, reproduced