ORIENTALIST ART - François Boucher, 1751
click to enlarge

"Portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy - Ruhendes Mädchen."
signed lower right: f Boucher 1751,
oil on canvas
(59.5 x 73.5 cm)
click here to see an enlargement.


This painting can be found in Wallraf-Richartz-Museum.

There is a fantastic story that goes along with this painting, it concerns Marie-Louise O"Murphy, I suppose many of you will be asking who was she? You can find her story on Wikipedia:

Marie-Louise O'Murphy de Boisfaily (Rouen, 21 October 1737 ­ Paris, 11 December 1814)

She was the seventh and youngest child of Daniel O'Murphy de Boisfaily, an Irish officer who had taken up shoemaking in Rouen, France, and his wife Marguerite Igny. After the death of her father in 1753, her mother brought the family to Paris.
In his Histoire de ma vie (vol. 3, chap. 11), Giacomo Casanova relates that he found her "a pretty, ragged, dirty, little creature" of thirteen years in the house of her actress sister. Struck by her beauty when seeing her naked, however, he had a nude portrait of her painted, with the inscription "O-Morphi" (punning her name with Modern Greek,"beautiful"), a copy of which found its way to the King, who took her as one of his mistresses. (This portrait is apparently not to be identified with the memorable and provocative portrait by François Boucher, though Casanova's description indicates that the poses were similar.)
She quickly became a favourite, and, after a miscarriage in 1753 (which apparently deeply affected the King), she gave birth to Louis XV's illegitimate daughter, Agathe Louise de Saint-Antoine, born in Paris on 20 May 1754 and baptized that same day at Saint-Paul.
After serving as a mistress to the King for just over two years, O'Murphy made a mistake that was common for many courtesans, that of trying to replace the official mistress. Around 1754, she unwisely tried to unseat the longtime royal favorite, Madame de Pompadour. This ill-judged move quickly resulted in O'Murphy's downfall at court...

This means that Boucher made this painting of Marie-Louise when she was fourteen and obviously already a mistress of Louis XV as she appears to be in a rather luxurious setting. Consider for a moment this story... a fourteen year old girl, out of nowhere, with no credentials and nothing but her own personal charm and beauty nearly manages to become the most powerful woman on the planet! Even now centuries later her picture is everywhere although not many know her story. (Personal note: never under estimate 14-year-olds)

Now many of you are probably saying that this isn't really an orientalist painting, although very Odalisque in nature, and I actually have seen this painting included in Orientalist, Odalisque collections, however I discovered something fantastic researching this painting which was really by accident. As mentioned previously I wanted to frame Orientalist art in the frames that were in vogue at the end of the 19th century, i.e. in the style of Louis XV. I had been searching high and low for these frames and researching the whole issue of Louis XV frames when I found this amazing example (shown above). I found this frame in the Sotheby's 2011 Paris auction Collection Fabius Frères, Lot #8,

"Grand cadre en bois sculpté et doré d'époque Louis XV. à décor de rocailles, rinceaux feuillagés et fleuris
Cadre : 100 x 83 cm ; vue : 77 x 60,5 cm."

this was precisely the kind of frame I was looking for, and I could see at first sight that this was something extraordinary well crafted, and I wasn't the only one because it sold for 15,000 Euros, just the frame by itself!. I had at last found my ideal frame and then thought that I should first try framing something that was suitable for this kind of masterpiece, Somehow Boucher came to mind and the O'Murphy portrait turns out to be a relatively close fit proportionately as well as in terms of phusical measurements. So far so good, but this isn't really Orientalism yet , then I started to look for high resolution examples of this portrait and then bingo, we make a huge discovery. There is another almost identical copy of this painting, apparantly by Boucher dated 1752, and this is an orientalist painting!

click to enlarge

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this! Here in the second Boucher painting there is a smoking brazier, exactly as in so many other orientalist odalisque examples, however to find it here, more than a century earlier than most of the Orientalist examples makes me rather suspicious. Lets just say that if you were a painter in the time of Ernst or Tanoux (late 19c) and you wanted to revamp Boucher's painting a la Orientaliste this is exactly how you would do it. Or another way of thinking may be to say here is the first Orientalist Odalisque with smoking brazier example that the others followed. I say this in relation to other writers who have proposed that Orientalism didn't really take off until after Napoleon occupied Egypt

click to enlarge

The 1752 copy can be found at Alte Pinakothec, RUHENDES MÄDCHEN (1752). On their web site they do not show the frame that this painting is in however you can find on the internet where there are number of photos posted by private individuals. We will look at this painting and frame in further detail on the next page.

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created by L. A. Miller in collaboration with Jean Duday.


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