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Arrivée d'une diligence dans la cour des Messageries à Paris

Prints and Drawings
19th century

Author(s):
Goarin Véronique

This is the only overall preliminary study for L.L. Boilly's 1803 painting, a work enthusiastically received at the Salon in 1804 and acquired by the Louvre in 1845. The painting is typical of the style of an artist who, in addition to his excellent portraits, specialized in the scenes of political and everyday life that made him famous. At this time, the arrival of a stagecoach was considered a major event in Parisian life.

A witness to his time

Louis Léopold Boilly began as a prolific painter of portraits before moving on to genre subjects. The acute sense of observation at work in his scenes of political and daily life made him a celebrity in the period covering the reigns of Louis XVI and Louis-Philippe. This is a preliminary study for the painting showing the arrival of a stagecoach at the Messageries, a work acclaimed at the 1804 Salon and ultimately acquired by the Louvre in 1845. It depicts a major event in Parisian life, at a time when coaches from all over France arrived daily in the busy, crowded courtyard of the Messageries in Rue Montmartre, now Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. The drawing is an authentic recreation of a setting in which travelers rub shoulders with picturesque groups of porters and beggars. The artist has depicted himself at the center of the picture, surrounded by his children as he kisses his wife.

A highly pictorial drawing

Overall sketches for a composition are a rarity among Boilly's drawings and this is the only known example for the painting in the Louvre. In perfect condition, it radiates a freshness that helps us appreciate its sheer technical skill: detailed and meticulously executed, it is nonetheless only a first impression for a final painting containing a number of differences, especially in the background buildings and the groups on the sides. A precise yet supple stroke establishes the figures and the scene, while the gray wash and white highlights fill out the volumes in a way that makes this a highly pictorial drawing.

A prolific artist

Boilly was a prolific practitioner of all techniques: miniatures, painting, drawing, engraving, and even painting on glass. He was also the inventor of techniques that preserve, even today, all the luminosity and freshness of color of his works. He was very famous in his own lifetime and his work was widely circulated in the form of engravings, especially the expressive studies of heads published under the title Grimaces.

Bibliography

H. Harrisse, Louis-Léopold Boilly, Paris, 1898, no. 872
P. Prouté, Catalogue Géricault, Paris, 1990, no. 33
A. Sérullaz, "Acquisitions. Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques", La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, 1990, no. 6, p. 493

Technical description

  • Louis Léopold Boilly (La Bassée, 1761-Paris, 1845)

    Arrival of a Stagecoach at the Messageries in Paris

    1803

  • Pen and sepia ink, gray wash with white highlights on a black chalk sketch on blue paper

    H. 37 cm; W. 52 cm

  • Purchased 1990

    4042656

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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