Anatomically powerful, this robust and dynamic red chalk drawing is for the middle figure of the three seen in the left background of the Louvre composition. His stance is almost identical to that of the Cyclops in the painting, but his face is much more visible; in the painting the Cyclops on the right is positioned so that his head obscures the middle figure’s face. Boucher has captured the strength and concentration of his figure as he raises his arms above his head, ready to strike down on the metalwork in front of him. Another red chalk study, for the Cyclops to the left of the trio, was part of the Berger Collection of Boucher drawings sold in these Rooms last year.3 A further study in black chalk, for the third figure in the group, is in the Musée de Poitiers.4 The Poitiers study includes another figure, who, with an open mouth, observes his fellow Cyclops with shock and astonishment, but this additional figure does not appear in the final painting. These working studies, clearly drawn from life, highlight Boucher’s skill in rendering the human form and show an entirely different aspect of his artistic abilities from the other, splendid compositional drawing by the artist in the Barnet collection (lot 16).
Boucher’s painting of Venus in Vulcan’s Forge, now in the Louvre, Paris, was exhibited in the Salon of 1747 (where it was noted as being oval in shape). It seems the painting had initially been commissioned in 1746, together with three others, by the Directeur Général des Bâtiments, Monsieur Tournehem, for the apartments of the newly-wed dauphin at Versailles. At an early stage, though, the commission appears to have been reduced from the original four paintings to just two. From a mémoire of the artist we learn that two paintings were commissioned for the King’s bedroom at Marly and some scholars believe that these two works were part of the original plan for the apartments at Versailles. In Boucher’s mémoire there is a brief description of these works, one seemingly describing The Apotheosis of Aeneas (now in a private collection in Massachusetts) and the other as Venus in Vulcan’s Forge (Paris, Louvre).5
We are grateful to Alastair Laing, who, from seeing an image of the drawing, has reaffirmed the attribution to Boucher and provided the 1987 sale reference. Laing suggests that the collector's mark that was on the mount when the drawing was sold in Paris may in fact have been a P with a star over it (L.2063), an as yet unidentified German mark.
1. A. Ananoff, François Boucher, Paris 1976, Vol. 1, cat. 302, reproduced p. 412
2. Ibid., vol. II, no. 351, fig. 1032
3. Sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 25 January 2017, lot 84
4. Ananoff, op.cit., p. 412 no. 302/2
5. For a full account of this project see J. Fack, ‘The Apotheosis of Aeneas: a lost Royal Boucher rediscovered’, The Burlington Magazine, CXIX, 1977, pp. 829-30.
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