Louis-Léopold Boilly (La Bassée 1761-1845 Paris)
Louis-Léopold Boilly (La Bassée 1761-1845 Paris)

A trompe-l'oeil of an ivory and wood crucifix hanging on a wall

Louis-Léopold Boilly (La Bassée 1761-1845 Paris)
A trompe-l'oeil of an ivory and wood crucifix hanging on a wall
signed, dated and inscribed 'L.Boilly. pinx: rue Meslée. no 12, A Paris.' (lower left, on the cartellino)
oil on canvas
25 x 18 in. (63.5 x 45.7 cm.)
George Rushout, 3rd Baron Northwick (1811-1887), Northwick Park, Gloucestershire, and by descent through his widow to
Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill (1876-1964); (+), Christie's, London, 29 October 1965, lot 65, where bought by Leggatt for the Dulverton Trust.
R.J. Durdent, Galerie des Peintres français du Salon de 1812, Paris, 1813, p. 54.
A Catalogue of the Pictures, Works of Art, etc., at Northwick Park, 1864, no. 402.
E. Bellier and L. Auvray, Dictionnaire général des artistes depuis l'origine des arts du dessin jusqu'à nos jours, Paris, 1882, I, p. 109.
H. Harrisse, L.L. Boilly, peintre, dessinateur et lithographe. Sa vie et son oeuvre, 1761-1845, Paris, 1898, pp. 26, 55, 82 and 137, no. 39.
P. Marmottan, Le Peintre Louis Boilly (1761-1845), Paris, 1913, pp. 134-5.
T. Borenius, A catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park, 1921, no. 84.
J.S. Hallam, The genre works of Louis-Léopold Boilly, Washington, 1979, pp. 104-105, 250, fig. 113.
S. Siegfried, 'Boilly and the Frame-up of Trompe-l'oeil', Oxford Art Journal, Oxford, 1992, XV, no. 2, p. 33, fig 10.
S. Siegfried, The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly, New Haven and London, 1995, pp. 187-8, pl. 162.
M.-C. Chaudonneret, The Grove Dictionary of Art, ed. by J. Turner, London, 1996, IV, p. 241.
J.P. Marandel, Eye for the Sensual. Selections from the Resnick Collection, exhibition catalogue, 2011, p. 55.
Paris, Salon, 1812, no. 110.
Paris, Salon, 1814, no. 115.
Paris, Grand Palais, De David à Delacroix, 1974-1975, p. 324, no. 9, pl. 142.
Dijon, musée des beaux-arts, La Peinture française de 1774 à 1830, 1982-1983, no. 474.
Fort Worth and Washington DC, The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly, Modern Life in Napoleonic France, 1995, no. 44.
Washington National Gallery of Art, Five Centuries of Trompe-l'oeil Painting, Deceptions and Illusions, 2002-2003, no. 52.
Magdalen College, Oxford, Chapel, on loan 1966-2011.
Sale room notice
Please note that the estimate for this lot should read £250,000-350,000.

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Miriam Winson-Alio
Miriam Winson-Alio

Lot Essay

Described by the critic Durdent at the 1812 Paris Salon as 'a small trompe l'oeil imitating ivory, and of a fine taste in drawing', this tour de force of the genre is the only known picture of this subject by Boilly, and surely one of the most strikingly direct paintings in his oeuvre.

Painted in harmonious tones of white, grey and brown, it depicts an ivory Crucifix attached to a wooden cross hanging on a grey/beige wall. The ivory figure of Christ is likely to have been copied by Boilly after a model traditionally attributed to François Girardon (1628-1715) and is similar to one that belonged to Bossuet now in the Musée de l'histoire, Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, and even closer to one copied in bronze in the early 19th century, at La Sculpture Françoise, Paris.

To the left of the Crucifix, Boilly painted a cartellino with his signature and address, positioned as if it were tucked under the edge of the picture's frame, inviting the Salon visitor or viewer to remove it. As noted by Vilain (loc cit.), the painted device of a piece of paper bearing his details, was employed by Boilly on a number of occasions and connects the artist with a long history of illusionistic painting going back at least to the art of the late 15th century Venetian, Giovanni Bellini. At the same time Boilly - here perhaps rather riskily, given the subject matter - displayed his commercial acumen, noting and skilfully drawing attention for any potential client to his full address in the Rue Meslée, to where he had moved by 1808. The Trompe-l'oeil was indeed a perfect way for artists to demonstrate and show off their technical skill, which in his case Boilly is thought to have developed in Arras under the still life and trompe-l'oeil specialist, Dominique Doncre (1743-1820), before moving to Paris in 1785. Furthermore, by depicting a sculpture so convincingly in oils, Boilly was consciously evoking the centuries old paragone or dialogue between the respective representational merits of painting and sculpture. Given that in this picture he proves how the former can so successfully represent the latter, it is clear on which side of the argument he fell.

In 1912, the late Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill inherited Northwick Park, Gloucestershire, and its contents from his maternal grandmother, the widow of the 3rd and last Lord Northwick. There were about 400 Old Masters including a number which the 3rd Lord Northwick had 'bought back' during the series of sales by Phillips which followed the death intestate of his uncle the 2nd Lord Northwick in 1859. The Crucifix was not part of the 1859 sales, but was recorded in the 1864 catalogue of pictures at Northwick Park. It is most likely that it had been acquired by the 2nd Lord Northwick (1770-1859) who, during his lifetime, had put together a very distinguished collection of paintings by Old Masters and contemporary artists, prints, coins, miniatures, enamels and other objects which were mostly housed at Northwick Park, his home near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire where he built a gallery in 1832. When this became too small he purchased Thirlestane House in Cheltenham to which he allowed access to connoisseurs who wished to see the collection. He also had a gallery at Connaught Place in London.
This picture will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Boilly by Etienne Breton and Pascal Zuber, for whose assistance we are very grateful.

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