A Louis II de Boullogne discovered in Canada

1. Louis II de Boullogne (1657-1733)
Presentation at the Temple, 1688
Oil on canvas - 312 x 210 cm
Moncton, Musée acadien
de l’Université de Moncton
Photo : Léo Blanchard

17/10/08 — Discovery — Moncton, Musee acadien de l’Universite de Moncton — It is well known that many17th and 18th century French paintings crossed the Atlantic and can be found today in Canadian churches. Thus, it comes as no surprise when unpublished works turn up. This is in fact what luckily befell the museum of the Universite de Moncton, in New Brunswick which will display this recent discovery starting Friday 24 October 2008.

The work hung in the small village church of Grande-Digue until 1969 when, due to the vandalism tied to Vatican II Council which hit Canada as well as France, the altar was destroyed. The painting which was placed above it was donated to the Musee Acadien. There was no visible signature, only a date, 1788, which did not seem to correspond to the style. It was thought to be a copy of an older work and put in storage.
During a restoration which was undertaken in 2006, the canvas was unrolled completely at the top and bottom which had been folded to fit the painting into its frame. The folds had in fact hidden the signature of the artist which turned out to be Louis de Boullogne the Younger. The real date, 1688, also appeared. This attribution has since been confirmed by Helene Guicharnaud, the specialist on the artist.

2. Louis II de Boullogne (1657-1733)
Presentation at the Temple, 1715
Oil on canvas - 430 x 454 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMN/Gérard Blot

The probable historical background of the painting has been studied very thoroughly by Bernard LeBlanc, curator of the Musee Acadien, in an unpublished report which we were able to consult (and which provided the information for this news item). Apparently, it arrived in Quebec with the 60 paintings sent by the Abbe Desjardins in 1820 [1]. The work was then, it seems, acquired by a priest from the parish of La Grande Digue for his church.

Let us note that the artist treated the same subject in a canvas held at the Louvre dated from 1715. The composition is different, with more figures and a wider format. The group surrounding the great priest Simeon who is carrying the child is however similar in both paintings.

Our thanks to Isabelle Cormier, Director of the Centre d’etudes canadiennes and of the Musee Acadien.

Version française

Didier Rykner, samedi 18 octobre 2008


[1] The provenance was confirmed by Laurier Lacroix, author of an article on the subject (Laurier Lacroix, « Les envois de tableaux européens de Philippe-Jean-Louis Desjardins à Québec, en 1817 et 1820. Établissement du contenu », Annales d’Histoire de l’Art Canadien, 20, 1999, n° 1-2, pp. 27-41). About the works sent by Desjardins, see also : Guillaume Kazerouni, « Les tableaux d’église français au Québec », Peintures françaises du XVIIe des églises de Paris, Dossier de l’Art, n° 149, février 2008, p. 90-91.

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