• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 11787

    Old Master & British Drawings

    5 July 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 49

    François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)

    Aurora and Cephalus

    Price Realised  


    François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)
    Aurora and Cephalus
    with inscription ‘F. Huquier’ (verso)
    black and white chalk, stumping on brown paper, indistinct watermark
    13¾ x 10¼ in. (34.9 x 26.5 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    This drawing is related to the figure of Aurora in a painting dated 1763 of Aurora and Cephalus by Boucher that was also the basis for an engraving, porcelain decoration and a tapestry by other artists. The project connected with this composition actually began in 1755 with the Marquis de Marigny's proposal to King Louis XV to commission seven paintings that would be woven as tapestries. There were delays with the project, and Boucher completed only two oval paintings, Aurora and Cephalus and its pendant Vertumnus and Pomona, dated 1764. The paintings were acquired by the King and are now in the Louvre (Inv. 2710, 2710bis; Ananoff, 1976, op. cit., pp. 156-8, nos. 481, 482).

    Aurora and Cephalus derives from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The present sheet isolates the figures of Aurora and a putto on a group of clouds. A drawing of the entire composition for Aurora and Cephalus but with the figures in reverse to the present sheet and the painting is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (Inv. 1942.9.992; M. Morgan Grasselli, Renaissance to Revolution. French Drawings from the National Gallery of Art, 1500-1800, exh. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, 2009-10, no. 57). The Washington drawing served as the basis for an etching by Augustin de Saint-Aubin. In the 19th Century the composition was used to decorate porcelain and was made into a tapestry at the Gobelins Factory, along with its pendant, Vertumnus and Pomona.

    Boucher repeated the composition of a nude woman on a cloud with a putto leaning on her thigh in another compositional drawing dated to circa 1766, Venus at Vulcan's Forge (see B. Jacoby Schreiber, 'Boucher's late brown chalk composition drawings', Master Drawings, XXX, 1992, no. 3, p. 267, fig. 13). The figures are in the same direction as the present sheet.

    We are grateful to Alastair Laing for his assistance in cataloguing this drawing.


    L.C. Coblentz; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 15-16 December 1904, lot 18.
    With Agnew's, London, inv. 4151 (according to a label on the frame).

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Alfred Beit Foundation


    A. Michel, François Boucher, Paris, 1906, no. 561.
    A. Ananoff, L'oeuvre dessiné de François Boucher, Paris, I, 1966, no. 885.
    A. Ananoff, François Boucher, Geneva, 1976, II, pp. 156-57, no. 481/6, fig. 1348.
    A. Ananoff and D. Wildenstein, L'opera completa di Boucher, Milan, 1980, p. 127, under no. 507 ('Un disegno preparatorio parziale era in collezione Coblentz').