LOUIS LÉOPOLD BOILLY (LA BASSÉE 1761-1845 PARIS)
LOUIS LÉOPOLD BOILLY (LA BASSÉE 1761-1845 PARIS)
LOUIS LÉOPOLD BOILLY (LA BASSÉE 1761-1845 PARIS)
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LOUIS LÉOPOLD BOILLY (LA BASSÉE 1761-1845 PARIS)
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PROPERTY FROM A FAMILY COLLECTION (LOTS 49-55)
LOUIS LÉOPOLD BOILLY (LA BASSÉE 1761-1845 PARIS)

Avant la toilette

Details
LOUIS LÉOPOLD BOILLY (LA BASSÉE 1761-1845 PARIS)
Avant la toilette
signed 'L. Boilly pinx.' (lower left, on the case)
oil on canvas
16 1/8 x 13 in. (41 x 33 cm.)
Provenance
(Possibly) Symphorien Boittelle (1813-1897), Paris; his sale, Pillet, Paris, 24 April 1866 (=1st day), lot 8 (1,450 francs to the following),
Mme. A. Normand, until at least 1898.
Literature
P. Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, Paris, 1867, p. 877.
A. Dayot, 'L'exposition centennale des Beaux Arts au Champ-de-Mars', Les Lettres et les arts, revue illustrée, Paris, 1889, III, p. 108.
A. Dayot, Un siècle d'art, notes sur la peinture française à l'Exposition centennale des beauxarts. Suivies du catalogue complet des oeuvres exposées, Paris, 1890, p. 9.
H. Harrisse, Louis Boilly, Peintre, Dessinateur et Lithographe, Paris, 1898, p. 133, no. 538.
C. Blumenfeld, Parfums d'interdit, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2018, p. 103, illustrated.
E. Bréton and P. Zuber, Louis-Léopold Boilly: le peintre de la société parisienne de Louis XVI à Louis-Philippe, Paris, 2019, II, p. 470, no. 79P.

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Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

In a fashionable Parisian interior a lady sits extravagantly en déshabillé while wistfully looking up at a portrait of a gentleman, presumably her lover. Dated to circa 1789-93 (Bréton and Zuber, op. cit.), this work is characteristic of the small, mildly risqué pictures Boilly produced during his early years in Paris that found considerable favour with contemporary collectors and reveal the artist’s life-long fascination with ‘the art of looking and the art of being looked at’ (F. Whitlum-Cooper, Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life, exhibition catalogue, London, 2019, p. 10). It was these pictures and others of a more licentious flavour that prompted his fellow artist, the Jacobin zealot Jean-Baptiste Wicar, to publicly denounce Boilly on 22 April 1794, for producing ‘works of art of revolting obscenity for Republican morals … that dirty the walls of the Republic’. This resulted in the artist’s name appearing on the list of ‘obscene works’ that were presented to Robespierre’s infamous ‘Comité de Salut Publique’, the portentous consequences of which were perhaps avoided through Boilly’s expedient portrayal of the Triumph of Marat (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille), painted later that year.
This picture displays Boilly’s remarkably controlled technique and ability to meticulously render different materials and objects, notably here in the sumptuous silks of the protagonist’s dress, the blue ribbon tied to the guitar, and details such as the play of light on the glass bottles and gilding of the picture frame hanging above. Bréton and Zuber (op. cit.) note that the sculpture on the commode is probably a 1769 Sevres white biscuit model based on the ancient Roman marble of Cupid and Psyche in the Capitoline Museums, Rome. They suggest Boilly may have encountered the model at the atelier of Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), whose celebrated sculpture of Le baiser donné was influenced by the Sevres model, and who sat to Boilly for the 1804 picture Jean Antoine Houdon sculpting the bust of Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace in the presence of his wife and daughters, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

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