Like many of the most notable 18th-century French painters, Boilly came from a family of skilled artisans; his father Arnould Boilly (1764-79) was a Douai wood-carver. After spending some time in Arras in order to receive instruction from the trompe-l'oeil specialist Dominique Doncre (1743-1820), Boilly moved to Paris in 1785. His early work in the years circa 1790-1800 was characterised by an output of moralising, amorous and sentimental subjects that catered to a taste established by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Boilly was condemned by the Comiti du Salut Public in 1794, at the height of the Revolutionary Terror, for painting subjects 'of an obscenity repugnant to Republican morals'. Thereafter, he turned increasingly to painting history, urban and rural genre scenes, as well as to portraiture.
We are grateful to Monsieur Pascal Zuber for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs (written communication 8 April 2008). To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's paintings by Etienne Breton and Pascal Zuber.