A Boucher Work Is Reattributed : Regarding the Butkin Bequest to the Cleveland Museum of Art

François Boucher (1703-1770)
Head of a Young Woman, early 1730’s
Oil on Canvas - 32.4 x 25.6 cm
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Photo : The Cleveland Museum of Art

9/2/12 - Acquisitions - Cleveland, Museum of Art - An oil study of a woman in a bust view dating from the 1730’s, now certifiably attributed to François Boucher (ill. 1), was added in 2012 to the inventory of the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was bequeathed by Muriel S. Butkin who, at her death in 2008, named the Cleveland Museum of Art as her principal legatee. This painting was part of her collection but had been identified as a figure in "the Chardin style". Jon Seydl, curator of the department of European paintings and sculptures, studied the work and shipped it to London in 2011 so that it could be shown to Alaistair Laing who then confirmed its attribution to Boucher. This analysis of the painting explains why it was added to the Cleveland Museum collections only last year. It will join another important, but more sensual, work by the same artist : The Fountain of Venus.

The Muriel Butkin bequest made in 2008 was of considerable size and unfortunately The Art Tribune was not aware of it at the time. Along with her husband, Noah L. Butkin (who died in 1980), she assembled an extensive collection, rich notably in 19th century French paintings and drawings. She and her husband were frequent donors to the museum and at the moment of her death, Muriel Butkin bequeathed her entire collection : paintings but also works on paper and decorative art pieces, added to the museum inventory between 2008 and 2010 (except for this Boucher). Five years later, it is now too late and the number of works too extensive for us to provide a detailed account here but the items will be included in an upcoming database devoted to museum acquisitions. We would nonetheless like to quote, to give the readers some idea, a few 18th century sheets (Hubert Robert, Greuze), over 150 19th century French drawings (Eugène Devéria, Dominique Papety, Hippolyte Flandrin, Gustave Doré, Puvis de Chavannes, etc.) and about ten paintings (Eugène Boudin, Achille Bénouville...) including a beautiful male portrait by Gustave Caillebotte...
The collectors were equally generous to the Snite Museum of Art which in fact staged an exhibition [1], last fall, highlighting the 19th century French works which the donor bequeathed. They of course will also be included in our database.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 12 février 2013


[1] Breaking the Mold : The Legacy of the Noah and Muriel S. Butkin Collection of Nineteenth-Century French Art, Notre Dame, Snite Museum of Art, from 2 September to 2 December 2012.

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