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    Sale 11933

    Old Masters: Part I

    14 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 146

    François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)

    Cupid as the Genius of Peace; and Cupid as the Genius of War

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)
    Cupid as the Genius of Peace; and Cupid as the Genius of War
    the first signed and dated 'f Boucher / 1759' (lower left); the second signed and dated 'f Boucher / 1759' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    each 16 ½ x 13 3/8 in. (41.9 x 33.7 cm.)
    a pair


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    Throughout his career, but notably after his return to Paris in the early 1730s from an extended stay in Italy, Boucher made allegorical decorations depicting putti at play and work. Such paintings evolved from the Greek God of Love, Eros, and his corresponding Latin personification, Cupid, of course, but for visual precedents, Boucher looked to Renaissance paintings by masters such as Titian (‘The Venus Worship’; Madrid, Prado) and Parmigianino, which themselves referred consciously to sculpted bas-reliefs from Roman antiquity. The somewhat blurry distinction between Cupids and Cherubim secured the putto’s entry into both the boudoir and the High Altar, and in Boucher’s most ambitious compositions the pudgy, winged infants invariably play prominent roles attending the Gods of Olympus or the Fathers of the Christian Church.

    In addition, Boucher understood that putti could serve purposes other than their traditional part as otherworldly attendants, and he ingeniously exploited their ornamental possibilities in autonomous decorative panels such as the present pair of paintings, in which they are featured without adult companions. Much of Boucher’s success in the genre lay in his lifelong fascination with the appearance and movements of actual babies, which he carefully studied. A devoted father himself, he made innumerable drawings of babies that observantly captured their peculiar anatomies and distinctive behavior with palpable affection, and he translated them into painted compositions of genuine charm and pictorial novelty.

    With his characteristic good humor and high spirits, Boucher casts naked, winged babies as personifications of the great, timeless themes of War and Peace in these colorful and carefree allegories. As War, Boucher presents a mischievous little Cupid surrounded by his toys and playthings, all of which are attributes of the martial arts. Grabbing at his toy horse, the Cupid willfully kicks a marionette of Punchinello in the belly; strains of unheard military marches are conjured by a discarded drum and the tiny violin the little boy clutches in his left fist. The verdant park in which he plays is surveyed by a marble herm of Minerva, Roman goddess of War, whose helmet is topped by a snarling dragon. The particular pose of Cupid first appeared the previous year in Cupid’s Target (1758; Louvre, Paris), a large modello commissioned by the Crown from Boucher for the Gobelins tapestry manufactory. In the companion picture to War, a victorious baby god represents the Genius of Peace, seated in a blossoming rose bower; Medusa’s shield, a quiver of arrows, and a flaming torch – the traditional emblems of war – have been cast aside on the ground around him, replaced with the golden lyre of Poetry and the white doves of Peace.

    Although the original owner and earliest history of these paintings is unknown, their superb quality suggests that they were made for a prestigious buyer. Boucher (and members of his workshop) would usually paint his ‘putti pictures’ rapidly and with a broad brush to serve as large-scale overdoors or to be inserted in arabesque designs that functioned as room paneling, such as the famous ‘Boucher Room’ at the Frick Collection. Exceptionally, the present paintings are small cabinet pictures undertaken by the artist with the highest level of finish and most meticulous care. Fully signed and dated ‘1759’, this wholly autograph pair of paintings is executed by Boucher with the rich modelling, assured draftsmanship and deft brushwork that he reserved for his finest pictures of later 1750s, such as the set of celebrated masterpieces, The Four Seasons (The Frick Collection, New York), painted in 1755 for his most dedicated patron, the Marquise de Pompadour. The present paintings were certainly conceived as pendants, but they were separated sometime after the Laperlier sale of 1867, and were only been reunited when entering the collection of the current owners.

    Provenance

    M. collection, Paris.
    Laurent Laperlier (1805-1878), Paris; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 11-13 April 1867, lots 3 and 4.
    Private collection, New Orleans, until 1985 (the first only).
    with Wildenstein, New York, where acquired by the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTOR


    Literature

    W. Bürger [Etienne-Joseph Théophile Thoré], 'Exposition de tableaux de l’école française ancienne tirés de collections d’amateurs', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, VIII, 1860, p. 235.
    A. de La Fizelière, Catalogue des tableaux de l’Ecole française, tirés des collections d’amateurs, Paris, 1860, p.235.
    'Vente Laperlier [La Chronique des Arts et de la Curiosité]', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, V, 1867, p. 122.
    A. Michel, François Boucher, Paris, 1906, nos. 917, 918.
    P. de Nolhac, François Boucher, premier peintre du roi, Paris, 1907, p. 137.
    I. Errera, Répertoire des peintures datées, Brussels and Paris, 1920, I, p. 419.
    A. Ananoff, François Boucher, Lausanne and Paris, 1976, II, p. 130, no. 451.
    A. Ananoff, L’Opera completa di Boucher, Milan, 1980, pp. 123-124, nos. 472, 473.


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Martinet, Tableaux et dessins de l’école française du XVIIIe siècle tirés de collections d’amateurs, 1860, nos. 347, 348.
    Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum and Kumamoto, Prefectoral Museum of Art, François Boucher, April-August 1982, no. 47 (the second only; the first listed in the catalogue as 'lost').