CF STUDIES JOURNAL 06 - Page 122



120
121
Boilly at the Wallace Collection
Boilly at the Wallace Collection
1
YU R I KO JAC KALL & N ICOLE RYDER
The 2018 conservation treatment of the Wallace
Collection’s three paintings by the French artist LouisLéopold Boilly (1761-1845) occasioned a dramatic visual
rehabilitation (figs. 1, 2 & 3).1 The canvases emerged,
jewel-toned, from under thick, obscuring layers of
yellowed varnish, making it possible to appreciate many
of their finer details for the first time in decades. Limited
technical analysis was undertaken in concert with a
campaign of close looking at other works by Boilly.2
These studies were initially intended to facilitate what
proved to be a relatively difficult conservation treatment
due to the high degree of solubility of the artist’s paint
layers.3 But the process also provided the authors with a
valuable opportunity to consider the working practice of
one of the most versatile and commercially savvy artists
of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It
is in order to add these observations to the growing body
of information on eighteenth-century French painting
technique and to update, where possible, the relevant
entries in the Wallace Collection’s Catalogue of French
Paintings that this article is conceived.4
Fig. 1 / Louis-Léopold
Boilly, The Visit
Returned, 1789, oil on
canvas, 45.8 x 56 cm,
London, The Wallace
Collection.
Indeed, little has been said of the technical decisions or
materials that underlay Boilly’s immense productivity.
This is not to imply that he has been overlooked
by scholars. His oeuvre has been celebrated in
monographic exhibitions in France, the United States,
and the United Kingdom.5 And the sheer volume of his
accomplishment is detailed in the two-volume catalogue
raisonné that encompasses some 2,853 paintings,
small-format portraits, drawings and prints.6 This
publication demonstrates the degree to which Boilly’s
practice was remarkably versatile, able to change
direction at a moment’s notice. When the tongue-incheek depictions of bourgeois love affairs that were
his initial bread and butter were denounced on moral
grounds to Robespierre’s puritanical Committee of
Public Safety in 1794, Boilly pivoted seamlessly to
patriotic celebrations of the newly democratic Republic
and vignettes of urban life unfolding on Paris’s busy
boulevards.7 Later, he forged new genres: trompe l’oeil still
lifes designed to deceive the eye and small-scale, protophotographic portraits made with the commercial art
market firmly in mind.
But how was this fluidity sustained in practice? What
practical considerations – cost of materials, choice of
supports, need for efficiency – shaped his manner of
working? Conducted through the highly specific prism
of the Hertford-Wallace pictures, the present study
seeks to illuminate at least some of those considerations
during a circumscribed but important period of Boilly’s
life: 1789 to ca. 1795 when the art market itself was
reverberating from the financial turmoil triggered by
the demise of the ancien régime.8
WORKING FROM THE GROUND UP:
THE VISIT RETURNED
Chronologically the earliest of the Wallace Collection’s
three pictures by Boilly, The Visit Returned, dates to 1789
(see fig. 1). Along with The Sorrows of Love (see fig. 2), it
belonged to a group of four paintings commissioned by
Alexandre Tulle, Marquis de Villefranche for his friend
Joseph François Calvet de Lapalun, a wealthy lawyer and
former musketeer from Avignon.9

Paperturn



Powered by


Full screen Click to read
Paperturn flip book
Search
Overview
Download as PDF
Print
Shopping cart
Full screen
Exit full screen