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François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)
François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)

Design for the title page for the Tomb of King William III of England

François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)
Design for the title page for the Tomb of King William III of England
signed 'Boucher' (on the base of the urn)
black chalk and graphite, grey wash, heightened with white, indented with the stylus
24¼ x 16½ in. (61.4 x 42 cm.)
Probably Gabriel Huquier; Joullain fils, Paris, 9 November 1772, part of lot 2574 ('Livre de Tombeaux composes et graves par François Boucher: sept esquisses ovales en hauteur et Deux Dessins de Tombeaux a la plume et lavis d’encre de Chine').
C.D. Ginsburg (L.1145).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 16 April 1955, probably part of either lot 8, 9, 15 or 19 (all parcels); where purchased by
F.J.B. Watson (according to his notes), and thence by descent to the present owner.
P. Jean-Richard, L'Oeuvre gravé de François Boucher dans la Collection Edmond de Rothschild, Paris, 1978, p. 384, under no. 1590.
C. Dufour Denison, Le dessin français. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la Pierpont Morgan Library, Paris, Musée du Louvre and New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 1993-94, p. 118, under no. 51.
A. Laing, The Drawings of François Boucher, exhib. cat., The American Federation of Art, 2003, p. 182, under no. 68, and p. 240, note 68.8.
F. Joulie, François Boucher: Fragments of a world picture, exhib. cat., Attemosevej, GI Holtegaard, 2012, p. 33, note 2.
Paris, Galerie Cailleux, François Boucher: Premier peintre du Roi, 1703-1770, 1964, no. 1.
London, Agnew's, Art Historians and Art Critics as Collectors, May 1965, no. 23.

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Lot Essay

On 1 November 1726 the Irish entrepreneur Owen McSwiny (1656-1754) wrote from Italy to his patron Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond (1701-1750): 'I am just returned to Verona, and have Employed Signor Antonio Balestra to paint The Figures in the piece dedicated to the Memory of King William' (T.D. Llewellyn, ed., Owen McSwiny's letters 1720-1744, Verona, 2009, p. 253). This was one of 24 paintings of allegorical funerary monuments, each designed for one of McSwiny and Richmond's distinguished British Whig contemporaries. The project had been conceived in the early 1720s and took an ambitious form: McSwiny planned to have the pictures painted by a selection of the most celebrated Italian artists of the time, and then to have the designs engraved and published as a series of prints with allegorical frontispieces. Naturally the project did not go to plan: McSwiny struggled with recalcitrant painters in Italy and wrote to Richmond in exasperation on 28 March 1727: 'The Bolognese painters are very idle & Lady, Eve[n] when they take it in their heads to work' (Llewellyn, op. cit., p. 277). His vision of a complete printed series never came to fruition either, although McSwiny was able to publish a series of nine prints of tombs, with eleven inscribed title pages, in Paris in 1737: the Tombeaux des princes, grands capitaines et autres hommes illustres, qui onto fleuri dans la Grande-Bretagne vers la fin du XVII et le commencement du XVIII siècle. The series was then published in London in 1741.

The present drawing relates to one of the few pictures that was completed: an allegorical monument to King William III of England (1650-1702). McSwiny had commissioned the painting from Antonio Balestra (1666-1740), deftly fending off Richmond's desire to have it painted instead by Francesco Solimena (1656-1747) with the explanation that 'Solimene is a very ticklish and whimsical Man' and so devout a Catholic that he would scarcely be likely to agree to paint a picture celebrating the Protestant instigator of the Glorious Revolution, who had displaced the Catholic King James II (1633-1701) in 1688 (Llewellyn, op. cit., p. 278). The iconography is certainly partisan: Justice and Truth surmount the frame, while Heresy and Rebellion lie defeated beneath. The Lion and the Unicorn flank a shield on which Saint George appears spearing the Dragon.

François Boucher had been approached to make preparatory drawings for the print series in 1724, although his four designs which survive for the project can be dated stylistically to 1729-1736. Owing to its more mature style, Joulie has argued that the present drawing was the final design in the series to be completed, suggesting a date of 1736-37 (op. cit.). As well as the present sheet, compositional designs by Boucher are known for the tombs of Sir Cloudesley Shovell (Albertina, Vienna, inv. 15.274; see Laing, op. cit., no. 68), Lord Chancellor Cowper (Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York) and Sidney, Earl of Godolphin (The Morgan Library, New York; see Laing, op. cit., p. 30, fig. 21). Fragments for the designs of the tombs of Lord Sackville, Earl of Dorset, and for the one of William Cowper are in the Musée Rolin Autun, (Joulie, op. cit., nos. 5-8). The present drawing was engraved by Louis Surugue (circa 1686-1762; Fig. 1), at which stage the final text was added to the cartouche left blank by Boucher: 'GUILLELMI/ III/ libertatis anglicæ/ VINDICIS/ Memoriæ Immortali.' and the date 'IV. Novembre/ M.DC.LXXXVIII.'.

At an early stage the drawing was probably in the collection of the printmaker and publisher Gabriel Huquier (1695-1772), who compiled the Livres des Cartouches, for which he re-engraved Suruge's print (D. Guilmard, Les Maitres Ornemanistes: Écoles Française, Italienne, Allemande et des Pays-Bas: Flamande et Hollandaise, Paris, 1801, I, p. 168).

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