A Boilly and a Sablet for the Louvre ; a Sablet (maybe) for the Musée Fesch

1. Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845)
Houdon Shaping the Bust of Bonaparte,
Premier Consul
, 1802
Oil on canvas - 56.5 x 46.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : SVV de Maigret

18/11/07 — Acquisitions — Paris, Musée du Louvre — Just a few days apart, the Louvre pre-empted, on 20 October in Marseille (Damien Leclere Auction House) and on 31 October in Paris (Thierry de Maigret AH) two works painted respectively by the Swiss Jacques Sablet and by Louis-Léopold Boilly. There is a relation between the style of both the artists, even if the first, twelve years older, died young and belongs well within the XVIIIth C., whereas the second passed away midway through the following century. The two painters have a very finished and smooth manner and both specialized in the genre scene as well as in portraits. Those by Boilly are often bust figures, but he also executed, as did Sablet, some full-length portraits which he often placed in a landscape.

The Boilly painting purchased at 205,000 € (without charges) represents Houdon shaping the bust of Bonaparte, Premier Consul (ill. 1). It is part of a series of paintings showing the sculptor at work, either alone as in this one or the one at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille, or in his workshop with his family (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs) or his students (Cherbourg, Musée Thomas Henri), with different models (Pierre-Simon Laplace, the scientist, in Lille and at the Arts Décoratifs ; an academy figure at Cherbourg). Although the canvas in Lille, with the whole right side being a preliminary study, is a direct preparation for the one at the Arts Décoratifs, the one at the Louvre seems to be independent and no doubt constitutes the first of the series. The bust of Bonaparte as Premier Consul sculpted by Houdon has been lost.
The painting joins an already extensive Boilly collection at the Louvre, where one can also find that of another famous workshop by Isabey.

2. Jacques Sablet (1749-1803)
Portrait of the Count and of the Countess de la Roche
Saint-André and their daughter
, 1799
Oil on canvas - 60.5 x 72.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : SVV Damien Leclere

The second acquisition by the Louvre, a canvas by Jacques Sablet (ill. 2) represents a couple and their child in a landscape, a traditional formula by this artist, in a manner close to that of certain English portrait artists. It was purchased for 130,000 € (before charges).

3. Jacques Sablet (1749-1803)
The Tarentella, 1799
Oil on canvas - 212.1 x 154.9 cm
London, Galerie Colnaghi
Photo : Colnaghi Gallery

In speaking of Jacques Sablet, we would like to mention in passing the Musée Fesch in Ajaccio, Corsica. An excellent catalogue for an exhibition we were not able to see and which took place last summer from 15 June to 30 September presents other painters as well : Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Marguérite Gérard and, precisely, Louis-Léopold Boilly. Entitled Fesch et l’art de son temps, its purpose was to show that Napoleon’s uncle included not just older painters in his collection but also contemporary artists, notably, Jacques Sablet.

Among the various works displayed there was The Tarantella (ill. 3), a large canvas recently rediscovered and previously belonging to Cardinal Fesch. The museum would like to acquire it from its present owner, the Colnaghi Gallery. It has been listed as a work of major cultural heritage by the Commission des trésors nationaux thus allowing a company interested in purchasing it, and then donating it to the Musée Fesch, to benefit from a tax deduction.

Collective work, Le cardinal Fesch et l’art de son temps, Gallimard, 2007, 181 p., 35 €. ISBN : 9782070118991

Buy this catalogue

Version française

Didier Rykner, dimanche 18 novembre 2007

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