The present drawing, unusually large and well preserved is related to a painting of the same composition which was sold at Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1981, lot 3. The fact that the drawing is highly finished and surprisingly of larger dimensions than the painting which measures 16 x 12¾ in. (407 x 324 mm.) may indicate that the present lot was intended as an independent work of art rather than a study for the painting although it is impossible to say whether painting or drawing predates the other.
At the 1981 sale the painting had a pendant, A young woman ironing, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (E.M. Zafran, French paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts. Artists born before 1790, Boston, 1998, I, no. 78). Perhaps there was a drawing associated with the Boston painting as well. The two pictures are from a number of small paintings produced by Boilly around 1800.
The Young woman grinding coffee has sometimes been identified with a painting exhibited at the Salon of 1800, A woman seated by a stove doing housework, which was highly praised for the realism of its still-life objects and the clear influence of seventeenth-century Dutch prototypes. Such comments are well suited to the present drawing where the careful rendering of the satin garments and the two meticulous yet casual groupings of still-life on the table and on the floor echo the interior scenes of Terborch, Frans van Mieris and Metsu. Moreover, the technique with the extensive use of black chalk is reminiscent of the rare drawings by these same Dutch masters where the central figure is often shown brightly lit against a dark background.
We are grateful to Etienne Breton and Pascal Zuber for confirming the attribution. The drawing will be included in their forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist.