Boilly at the Wallace Collection
Boilly at the Wallace Collection
We are grateful to Étienne Bréton and Pascal Zuber,
authors of the recently-published catalogue raisonné
of Boilly’s oeuvre, who funded the conservation of
the Wallace Collection’s three paintings and provided
invaluable advice along the course of this research.
Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection,
graciously supported this project throughout, offering
helpful feedback and pithy suggestions at key moments.
For their advice and assistance in various matters, it is
also a pleasure to thank Paul Ackroyd, Philippe Bordes,
Tracey Chaplin, Trevor Cumine, Will Elliott, Poppy
Harvey-Jones, Helen Jacobsen, Richard Mansell-Jones,
Susan North, Clare Phillips, Alan Salz, Perrin Stein,
Catrin Treadwell, Francesca Whitlum-Cooper, Tager
Stonor Richardson, and those who wish to remain
Infrared reflectography was performed on all three
paintings. The external works studied visually over the
course of this project were: the ensemble of twentyone paintings and drawings exhibited at the National
Gallery, London during the run of Boilly: Painter of
Parisian Life, Vaccination Scene (Wellcome Collection,
London), and La Jarretière (ca. 1789-1793; courtesy
of Richard Green, London). In addition, Portrait of a
Young Boy Wearing the Décoration du Lys (1814; courtesy of
Colnaghi Gallery, London), Isaac Cox Barnet (ca. 1831,
Private Collection), and Portrait of a Young Girl in a Grey
Shift (n.d., Private Collection) were studied and the latter
two conserved in Ryder’s studio.
Portrait of a Young Girl in a Grey Shift is reproduced in
Susan L. Siegfried, The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly, Modern
Life in Napoleonic France, exh. cat. (Fort Worth: Kimbell
Art Museum; Washington: National Gallery of Art,
1995), p. 120, fig. 94.
The Wallace Collection’s paintings are catalogued in
Étienne Bréton and Pascal Zuber, Boilly. Le Peintre de
la Société Parsienne de Louis XVI à Louis-Philippe. 2 vols
(Paris : Arthena, 2019), II, 66 P, 99P, and 313P. It is
possible that Boilly used local intermediary varnishing
layers during his painting process along the lines
of the technique advocated by Jean-Baptiste Oudry
earlier in the eighteenth century; see Michael Swicklik,
“French Painting and the Use of Varnish, 1750-1900,”
Conservation Research. Studies in the History of Art 41 (1993):
pp. 157-171. This may explain some of the solubility
issues encountered during treatment.
John Ingamells, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Pictures, III:
French before 1815 (London: Wallace Collection, 1989), pp.
24-29. The three paintings at the Wallace Collection were
acquired in the nineteenth century by the 4th Marquess of
Hertford whose collection once encompassed an additional
twelve paintings and three drawings by Boilly.
See notably Siegfried, The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly;
Annie Scottez-De Wambrechies and Florence Raymond,
Boilly (1761-1845), exh. cat. (Lille: Palais des Beaux-Arts,
2011-2012); Francesca Whitlum-Cooper, Boilly, Scenes of
Parisian Life (London: National Gallery, 2019).
The Wallace Collection’s paintings are catalogued in
Étienne Bréton and Pascal Zuber, Boilly. Le Peintre de la
Société Parsienne de Louis XVI à Louis-Philippe. 2 vols (Paris :
Arthena, 2019), II, 66 P, 99P, and 313P. We are grateful
to Bréton and Zuber for sharing with us their entries on
the Wallace Collection paintings prior to publication.
See John Stephen Hallam, “The Two Manners of
Louis-Léopold Boilly and French Genre Painting in
Transition,” The Art Bulletin 63 (1981): pp. 618-663.
The others are now widely dispersed, finding new homes
in institutions such as the Norton Simon Museum in
southern California and notable private collections.
The remaining two paintings from this initial group are
La Visite rendue (Saint-Omer, Musée de l’Hôtel Sandelin)
and Les quatre âges de la vie (untraced). The commission
was studied in detail, first by John Hallam, “Boilly et
Calvet de Lapalun, ou la sensibilité chez le peintre et
l’amateur,” Bulletin de la Société de lHistoire de lArt Français
(1984): pp. 177-192 and subsequently by Christoph
Martin Vogtherr in Scottez De-Wambrechies and
Raymond, Boilly, pp. 103-107.
Hallam, “Boilly et Calvet de Lapalun,” pp. 189-191,
published the original list or catalogue of paintings
made by Calvet de Lapalun as well as his detailed
instructions for some of the works.
See Yuriko Jackall, Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures, exh. cat.
(Washington: National Gallery of Art, 2017), pp. 14-17.
Artists such as Hubert Robert charged with producing
paintings that needed to conform to specific formats,
such as decorative ensembles designed to fit into
panelling, gilding or other wall treatments continued to
size and stretch their own canvases.
Visual study was made of four little stretchers for smallsized portraits. On this basis, it seems that the design
alters little over the years. All have expandable corner
joints with miniature stretcher keys, and a horizontal
central bar with a variation on dovetail joints into the
side bars and deep chamfers along the edges. On a
stretcher of this size the central bar does not have an
obvious structural function, suggesting that its presence
served a separate purpose. Perhaps this was one
connected with Boilly’s working methods: it may have
enabled the portraits to be handled when wet without
disturbing the thin smooth paint, or allowed them to
be fixed or tied to a structure while they were being
painted or while they were drying. Siegfried provides an
illuminating discussion of the formal aspects of these
portraits: The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly, p. 118.
Many of the small portraits bear their original frames
which Boilly included with the portrait. Henry Harisse
cites receipts indicating that these little works were
priced at 120 francs each in L.L. Boilly, peintre, dessinateur
et lithographe. Sa vie et son oeuvre, 1761-1845. Étude suivie
d’une description de treize-cent soixante tableaux, portraits, dessins
et lithographes de cet artiste (Paris: Société de propagation
des livres d’art, 1898).
Hallam, “Boilly et Calvet de Lapalun,” pp. 187 and 188 n. 22.
Pascal Labreuche, Paris, capitale de la toile à peindre (Paris:
CTHS-INHA, 2015), p. 50.
Jackall, Fragonard, p. 15.
This observation was not confirmed by paint analysis.
Examination of Boilly’s paintings shows that the canvas
used ranges from a very open weave to a more tightly
woven, better quality product. It is likely Boilly was
buying ready primed canvas, but it is not possible to tell
if he bought the stretchers with the canvas attached or
whether this was done in the studio. A single sample was
taken from the edges of four paintings to characterize
the ground preparations: The Visit, The Sorrows of Love
and the Portrait of Isaac Cox Barnet have a double ground
composed of a lower reddish-orange layer followed by an
off-white layer, but one portrait – Young Girl in a Grey Shift
– has a single off-white ground. It would be interesting
to chart shifts in Boilly’s materials more systematically to
see whether there is any correlation between tumultuous
political events such as the Revolution or the Napoleonic
blockade (when good materials would have been less
readily available), and his technical choices.
Joseph Baillio, “Identification de quelques portraits
d’anonymes de Vigée Le Brun aux États-Unis,” Gazette
des Beaux-Arts 96 (1980): pp. 159-168.
Yuriko Jackall, “Les têtes d’expression du peintre
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805),” 2 vols. (PhD diss.,
Université Lyon 2, 2014), I, pp. 249-252.
See Hallam, “Boilly et Calvet de Lapalun,” p. 620.
See Calvin Seerveld, “Telltale statues in Watteau’s Paintings,”
Eighteenth-Century Studies 14 (1980-1981): pp. 151-180.
Falconet’s Amour Menaçant makes an appearance in another
Calvet de Lapalun picture, Ce qui allume l’amour l’éteint ou la
jeune philosophe (Saint-Omer, Musée de l’Hôtel Sandelin).
In an e-mail message to Nicole Ryder of 1 October
2018, Clare Phillips gave several examples in the
collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum. See
for instance the Wedgwood buckle in which a jasper
medallion of ca. 1790-1800, depicting classical figures,
is mounted on cut steel (inv. 414:1295-1885). See also
Diana Scarisbrick, Jewellery in Britain 1066-1837: A
Documentary, Social, Literary, and Artistic Survey (Norwich:
Michael Russell Publishing, Ltd, 2000), p. 332, which
refers to the late eighteenth-century vogue for clasps.
She cites the Lady’s Monthly Museum for July 1801
reporting on the fashion for yellow and white muslin
dresses belted with one gem in front and two behind.
Wedgwood buckles were popular in late eighteenthcentury France and appear in portraiture such as
Vigée Le Brun’s Madame d'Aguesseau de Fresnes of 1789
(Washington, National Gallery of Art).
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981), pp. 321-323.
Antoine Schnapper, “Après l’exposition David. La
‘Psyché’ retrouvée,” Revue de L’Art 91 (1991): pp. 60-67.
Guillaume Faroult in Guillaume Faroult, Christophe
Léribault, and Guilhem Scherf, L’Antiquité Rêvée:
Innovations et Résistances au XVIIIe Siècle, exh. cat. (Paris:
Musée du Louvre, 2010-2011), pp. 460-463.
See Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat, JacquesLouis David. Catalogue raisonné des dessins, 2 vols. (Milan:
Leonardo Arte, 2002) II, p. 894 (no. 1291). The authors
suggest that David studied after the version of the statue
then in the Villa Medici, Rome (now conserved in the
Uffizi, Florence under inv. 1914, no. 188).
Their exchanges are published by Gary Tinterow and
Asher Ethan Miller, “The Public Viewing David’s
‘Coronation’ at the Louvre, 1810,” in The Wrightsman
Pictures, ed. Everett Fahy (New York: The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, 2005), pp. 282-288.
Claire Stoullig and Frédérique Thomas-Maurin, Une
fraternité dans l’histoire: les artistes et la franc-maçonnerie au
XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, exh. cat. (Besançon: Musée des
Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, 2005-2006), pp. 42-43.
The authors publish a drawing by Boilly showing
sixteen portraits of artists, ten of whom were closely
involved with Freemasonry.
Philippe Bordes has called for closer consideration of
Boilly’s drawings and the way in which they relate to the
paintings in “Review: Boilly. Lille,” Burlington Magazine
154 (2012): pp. 139-140. The new catalogue raisonné
contains much new information permitting a useful
discussion of the interconnectedness of paintings and
drawings in Boilly’s oeuvre. See in particular Bréton and
Zuber, Boilly, I, pp. 187-197.
See Hallam, “Boilly et Calvet de Lapalun,” p. 181, fig. 5.
Neither of these are mentioned in Ingamells, Wallace
Collection, pp. 25-26.
There may be other lines that are not apparent. Boilly
may have relied upon a brown or iron gall ink, materials
which are usually transparent in infrared. Ryder also
identified ruled scoring marks in the floor of the
composition of The Sorrows of Love.
Based upon visual examination, his small portraits
Portrait of a Young Boy Wearing the Décoration du Lys and
Portrait of a Young Girl in a Grey Shift seem to have some
brown under modelling as well.
The costume, hairstyle, and overall sense of spontaneity
on offer in this drawing is repeated in the painting
known as The Young Mother (Christie’s, New York, 28
January 2009, lot 93). This work is catalogued in Bréton
and Zuber, Boilly, II, as 312P. See also the composition
listed under 311P. The children in this painting are not
posed like the ones in The Dead Mouse but they may be
the same models.


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