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

Les Femmes se battent; and Les Hommes se disputent

Louis-Léopold Boilly (La Bassée 1761-1845 Paris)
Les Femmes se battent; and Les Hommes se disputent
the first signed and dated 'L.Boilly 1818' (lower right)
oil on canvas, unlined
the first 13 x 16 in. (33 x 40.6 cm.); the second 12¾ x 16 in. (32.4 x 40.6 cm.)
a pair (2)
Lehideux-Vernimmen, before 1930.
with Didier Aaron, Paris, in 1980.
Anonymous sale; Lille, Maître Mercier, 20 December 1993, lot 105.
Private collection, Paris.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 24 January 2003, lot 123.
H. Harrisse, Louis-Léopold Boilly, Peintre-Dessinateur-Lithographe, Paris, 1898, p. 110, nos. 307-308.
P. Marmottan, Le Peintre Boilly, Paris, 1913, p. 151.
A. Mabille de Poncheville, Louis Boilly, Paris, 1931, p. 141.
J. Adhémar, Inventaire du fonds français après 1800, Paris, 1949, IV, p. 291.
J.S. Hallam, The genre works of Louis-Léopold Boilly, unpublished Ph.D dissertation, University of Washington, 1979.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Hôtel Sagan, Louis-Léopold Boilly, May-June 1930, nos. 34-35.
New York, Didier-Aaron, Exposition, 1980, no. 40.

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Lot Essay

Born at La Bassée, near Lille, in 1761, Boilly received his only documented training from the well-known trompe-l'oeil painter Dominique Doncre (1743-1820). He worked for a short period in Douai and Arras before moving to Paris in 1785, where he exhibited at the Salon regularly from 1791 until 1824. Boilly was a fashionable painter whose career spanned over 70 years, and included numerous exercises in portraiture, history subjects, scènes galantes and scenes of everyday life in contemporary Paris.

In the present pair of paintings, we see Boilly depicting contemporary genre scenes with the flavor of 17th-century Dutch paintings by artists such as Teniers and Brouwer. We find ourselves in popular, working-class cafés where there are no social antagonisms, rather a difference of opinion among people of the same social strata. In one painting, Les femmes se Battent ('Women Fighting'), we see a brutal altercation between two women who need to be torn away from each other by shocked onlookers; in the other, Les Hommes se Disputent ('Men Arguing'), a man raises his fist in anger, swearing an oath at a companion drinking across the table. Painted in 1818, these works recreate the tumultuous agitation and electrifying ambiance often found in houses of public drink. The mise en scène in these episodes of struggle bring to mind the surging crowds in other paintings by Boilly, notably L'Entré du thèâtre de l'Ambigu un jour de spectacle gratis (Louvre, Paris); and the attitude of the man raising his fist is similar to that of the old man in the early genre scene L'Amant Jaloux (Musée de Saint-Omer).

In the Salon of 1819, Boilly exhibited a painting depicting the interior of a wine merchant's boutique, an Jal, in his critique of that year's exhibition, described without naming it a composition that seems very similar to Les Femmes se Battent -- could he have been writing about the present picture? Unfortunately, the Salon livret for 1819 gives no indication that Boilly exhibited this pair of pictures.

There are several watercolors by Boilly associated with Les Femmes se Battent, one of which -- signed and dated 1820 -- appeared in the sale of the comte Jacques de Bryas on 4 April 1898. A second is mentioned by Henri Harrisse under the title Dispute de femmes, and a third, which is signed and dated 1823, was formerly in the collection of David and Constance Yates, New York. In 1821, acquatints of the two paintings were published in reverse by Champonnier. Other lithographs by Delpech -- entitle Le Coup de Peigne and Le Defi -- develop the themes of conflict found in the present paintings.

The present painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné of paintings by Boilly now in preparation by Étienne Breton and Pascal Zuber.

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