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Lot 7 (Old Master Paintings and Drawings, 27th August 2020)


Design for an urn sitting on an extrados of an arch
red chalk
215 x 275 mm (8 1/2 x 11 in.)

Bears 18th-century inscription in pen and black ink Boucher lower centre.

The present study is a design for an urn that possibly for execution in stone or terracotta. The form relates to similar vessels that appear in the backdrops to François Boucher's pastoral paintings. There was a similar drawing in the Goncourts' collection. Boucher's idiosyncratic style included many sculptural elements, notably putti.

Francois Boucher’s designs for the decorative arts are an important aspect of his oeuvre, but his designs for vases and mounts, which he executed throughout his career are little known and have been largely unstudied until Alicia M. Priore’s article on the subject in 1996 (1). Boucher published a compendium of his designs, in his Livre de Vases between 1734-38, engraved by A Boucher and G. Huquier. Eight drawings of vases and cartouches by Boucher were included in the 1771 posthumous sale of Huquier’s collection, some of which would have been original drawings for the Livre de Vases. Another drawing intended for metalwork, entered the collection of Boucher’s friend and patron Count Tessin, now in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Boucher’s designs for vases often developed into his paintings of fountains, following Italian prototypes.

In the present drawing, the sketchy indication of mascarons, plain and winged, and its convex form partially relates to plate 6 of Livre de Vases. Vase designs were mostly of pure fantasy and because they were so fantastical, could often only have been executed in metal. The present work is more sober and substantial.

We are grateful to Alastair Laing for endorsing the attribution to Francois Boucher on the basis of high resolution photographs, and for his help in cataloguing this lot.

(1) Alicia Priore, ‘François Boucher's Designs for Vases and Mounts’, Studies in the Decorative Arts, Vol. 3, No. 2 (SPRING-SUMMER 1996), pp. 2-51

Sold for £2,750

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