ORIENTALIST ART - François Boucher, 1752
click to enlarge

"Portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy - Ruhendes Mädchen."
signed lower left : f Boucher? 1752,
oil on canvas
(59 x 73 cm)
click here to see an enlargement.

actual photograph

(Actual photo of the painting.)

This painting can be found in the Alte Pinakothec, RUHENDES MÄDCHEN

On the previous page we looked at the 1751 version of this painting that is now in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. In their description of that painting they mention this second version in the Alten Pinakothek, and state that Boucher was said to have made a copy of this painting for the brother of Marquise de Pompadour (Madame de Pompadour), suggesting that possibly this second copy is that one but they are not sure. This brother would have undoubtedly been the younger brother, Abel-François Poisson de Vandières, who would later become the marquis de Marigny.

"Das Motiv hat sich von Boucher zweimal erhalten. Eine weitere Fassung befindet sich in der Alten Pinakothek in München. Eine der Fassungen, ob die Kölner oder die Münchener Fassung, ist nicht gewiss, hat sogar der Bruder der Marquise de Pompadour vom Maler erworben."

click to enlarge

Comparative Diagram 1 - Corner decorations of mid 18th century, carved giltwood frames, Louis XV.
(Click here to see an enlargement.)

For a number of reasons we might suspect that this second example is not actually a painting by Boucher. There are a lot of unknowns here and I don't pretend to be any kind of expert, we are looking at these paintings, and trying to piece together a few facts. This may become a lot easier if I decide to spend hundreds of dollars to buy certain catalogues that "might" clarify the situation. However it is perhaps more interesting if we investigate this matter on our own and make our own discoveries even if it maybe seen as "reinventing the wheel."

I want to first point out the frames on the two Boucher portraits of Marie-Louise O'Murphy, assuming that the 1751 painting is in its original frame, and that the 1752 example is also in the original frame, I say this due to the fact that the 1752 frame is not perfect, and appears damaged, why keep it unless it is the original? I show the corner decoration of these frames in Comparative Diagram 1, above. Looking for other examples from the same period on the internet I found a good 1755 example in a Sotheby's 2012 catalogue Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, New York, Lot 62, which has been well described in the lot description.
"The frame which accompanies this painting represents the epitome of a grand-luxe portrait frame in late Louis XV style, and the finest of its pattern recorded by Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. A group of earlier frames on Nattier's portraits of the 1740s are identical to each other, indicating that he, like many artists, was generally faithful to one workshop of carvers and gilders. This workshop would have been part of the Bâtiments du roi, run by one of the dynasties of families who acted as framemakers and carvers of boiseries to the French court: for instance Mathieu Legoupil, whose sketches in his carnets show details highly reminiscent of this frame, in the frieze panels, and in the lush foliation of the rails.

This frame may very well be original to the portrait. It is fifteen years later than the group mentioned above; however, frame styles tended to be long-lived, overlapping with subsequent and earlier styles. Given that the portrait may have been painted to celebrate the Duc's taking his seat in Parliament in 1755, the choice of style for the frame is appropriately conservative rather than avant garde, compensating for this in the almost overwhelming opulence of the craftsmanship and finish.This frame exists as an objet d'art in its own right, celebrating the apogee of the framemaker's craft: bringing together the work of the carver, the répareuror re-cutter, and the gilder. 

Another version, also signed and dated 1756, but of inferior quality to the present example was sold New York, Sotheby's, 5 April 1990, lot 259."
This description was a kind of inspiration and I started searching for the other 1740s frames, this led me on to collecting all example of gilded frames from this period, you can find many pictures on the internet taken by private individuals in Museums and posted on their blogs, many are high resolution photographs however often most or all of the frames have been cropped out due to the fact that the photographer was interested primarily in the painting. After collecting what ever photos I could find and while trying to sorting them out, I came up with an interesting plan that I will tell you about on the next page, however I just want to point out here that the 1752 frame is not like most examples from this period and if the painting belonged to the marquis de Marigny, I suspect that he would not have picked this style of frame for his painting.

The next issue is the signature of the 1752 version it is convenietly hidden behind the unusualy large rococo corner decoration, fortunately we can just see barely part of it in a high resolution photo taken in the Museum by a visitor. I have blown it up here at the same scale as the 1751 signature and although the detail is very vague I think that it may be signed "Boucher 1752"

1752 signature

Comparative Diagram 2 - Boucher signatures 1751 and 1752?

Thus I will leave this question to the experts, as to whether or not this painting is actually a 19th century Orientalist spoof? Or whether in fact it may be the first Odalisque painting with smoking brazier on record. On the next page we are going to drift off course slightly to explore further, gilded, Louis XV picture frames.

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


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