A very fine and large French 18th century Louis XV Rococo whimsical circular oil on canvas of cherubs hovering in the clouds, school of François Boucher (French, 1703–1770), former Property from the Private Collection of Jayne Wrightsman. The ornately painted open sky scene depicting nine cheerful winged Putti disporting themselves playfully within white and grey clouds. The Putti are nude and hold garlands of flowers forming the letters 'A', 'R', 'P', 'M', and an interlocking 'C & M'. The significance of the letters has not been conclusively deciphered, but they likely refer to the names of the original owners of the Hôtel de Cabris, Jean Paul de Clapiers (1750 - 1813) and Marquis de Cabris and his wife Louise de Mirabeau (d. 1807). (Unframed). Paris, circa 1775.
The most prominent initials, the interlocking ‘C’ and ‘M’ in the center of the composition, could allude to the Marquis de Cabris himself, or to the union of the Cabris and Mirabeau families.; indeed, ‘M’ is executed in pink, a color consistently associated by family tradition with Louise de Mirabeau’s name. The painting probably decorated the central salon on the ground floor of the Hôtel de Cabris (now the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Grasse), in rue Mirabeau. It was replaced by a chandelier and plaster decorations in a renovation of the building around 1900. The painting was sold with the boiseries (subsequently gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Charles and Jayne Wrightsman; see F. J. B. Watson, The Wrightsman Collection, New York, 1970, III, pp. 32-39) in the E. M. Hodgkin sale, Paris on 29 May 1937.
The identity of the author of this ceiling painting has never been convincingly determined, but its style certainly suggests a dating of circa 1775. The names of Hughes Taraval (1729-1785) and Antoine-François Callet (1741-1823) have been suggested, and both artists trained with Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre (whose style is reflected in the Wrightsman painting) and are known to have painted ceiling decorations early in their careers. Perhaps the most intriguing name posited is that of Nicolas-Guy Brenet (1728 - 1792), the French history painter who trained with François Boucher (French, 1703 - 1770) , and whose brother, André Brenet, was the Parisian sculptor who was engaged by the Marquise de Cabris to obtain in Paris the boiseries, decorations and furnishings for the hôtel. Might it be that he engaged his brother to execute the ceiling painting, as Georges Vindry, curator of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire proposed in the mid-1970s.
• Jean Paul de Clapiers, Marquis de Cabris (1750-1813), with E.M. Hodgkins by 1910.
• His sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 29 May 1937 with Wildenstein, New York, by 1955.
• Charles and Jayne Wrightsman, New York, acquired from the above.
• Purchased from Wildenstein & Co. in 1957, this anonymous painting decorated the ceiling of a vestibule in the Wrightsman’s apartment at 820 Fifth Avenue. It was acquired along with boiserie paneling that had been carved around 1775 for the Hôtel de Cabris at Grasse, now installed in the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY - The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 527 "Boiserie from the Hôtel de Cabris, Grasse"
• Christie's New York, The Private Collection of Jayne Wrightsman.
About Jayne Kirkman Wrightsman
Jayne Kirkman Wrightsman (née Larkin; October 21, 1919 – April 20, 2019) was an American philanthropist, fine and decorative arts collector and widow of philanthropist and art collector Charles B. Wrightsman (1895–1986). She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1965. She was a resident and president of the co-op board at 820 Fifth Avenue. She was born in Michigan, and grew up in Los Angeles.
Beginning in 1952, she and her husband amassed the finest private collection in the US of the decorative arts of the ancien régime, ultimately donating many objects (comprising the Wrightsman Galleries) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Jayne Wrightsman also served as a member of the Museum's 100th Anniversary Committeeand was elected to the board of trustees in 1975.
Wrightsman died on April 20, 2019, aged 99.
Sources: Wikipedia, The Met and Christie's New York
Measures: Diameter 63 1/2 inches (161.3 cm)
Width 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm)
This work has been recently professionally relined, see images of the back before and after relining. The stretcher is original, and cannot be expanded. On the reverse of the canvas (prior to relining) there are four small reinforcements addressing some small repairs in one of the Putti—two in his wings and one in his leg—and another repair near the clouds. The original canvas join is visible. There is raised cracking to the paint layer, but this is not unstable. A truly beautiful and well executed period artwork.
François Boucher (French 1703-1770) was a French painter in the Rococo style. Boucher is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories, and pastoral scenes. He was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century. He also painted several portraits of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour.
A native of Paris, Boucher was the son of a minor painter Nicolas Boucher, who gave him his first artistic training. At the age of seventeen, a painting by Boucher was admired by the painter François Lemoyne. Lemoyne later appointed Boucher as his apprentice, but after only three months, he went to work for the engraver Jean-François Cars. In 1720, he won the elite Grand Prix de Rome for painting, but did not take up the consequential opportunity to study in Italy until five years later, due to financial problems at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. On his return from studying in Italy he was admitted to the refounded Académie de peinture et de sculpture on 24 November 1731. His morceau du reception (reception piece) was his Rinaldo and Armida of 1734.
Boucher became a faculty member in 1734 and his career accelerated from this point as he was promoted Professor then Rector of the Academy, becoming head of the Royal Gobelins Manufactory in 1755 and finally Premier Peintre du Roi (First Painter of the King) in 1765.
Boucher died on 30 May 1770 in his native Paris. His name, along with that of his patron Madame de Pompadour, had become synonymous with the French Rococo style, leading the Goncourt brothers to write: "Boucher is one of those men who represent the taste of a century, who express, personify and embody it."
Boucher is famous for saying that nature is "trop verte et mal éclairée" (too green and badly lit). Boucher was associated with the gemstone engraver Jacques Guay, whom he taught to draw. Later Boucher made a series of drawings of works by Guay which Madame de Pompadour then engraved and distributed as a handsomely bound volume to favored courtiers. The neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David began his painting instruction under Boucher.
Reflecting inspiration gained from such artists as Peter Paul Rubens and Antoine Watteau, Boucher's early works celebrate the idyllic and tranquil portrayal of nature and landscape with great elan. However, his art typically forgoes traditional rural innocence to portray scenes with a definitive style of eroticism as his mythological scenes are passionate and intimately amorous rather than traditionally epic. Marquise de Pompadour (mistress of King Louis XV), whose name became synonymous with Rococo art, was a great admirer of his work.
Boucher's paintings such as The Breakfast (1739), a familial scene, show how he was as a master of the genre scene, where he regularly used his own wife and children as models. These intimate family scenes are contrasting to the licentious style seen in his Odalisque portraits.
The dark-haired version of the Odalisque portraits prompted claims by the art critic Denis Diderot that Boucher was "prostituting his own wife", and the Blonde Odalisque was a portrait that illustrated the extramarital relationships of the King. Boucher gained lasting notoriety through such private commissions for wealthy collectors and, after Diderot expressed his disapproval, his reputation came under increasing critical attack during the last years of his career.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California
The British Museum, London UK
Musée du Louvre, Paris France.