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Work Seated young woman, dressed 'Spanish-style'

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Jeune femme assise vêtue à l'espagnole

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Author(s):
Grollemund Hélène

This is one of the loveliest and best known of Boucher's drawings. Here he shows himself the heir of Watteau in this evocation of a 'fête galante'. A highly finished and colored work, it is remarkable for its vigor, the fullness of the forms and the rendering of the silk. The "Spanish" costume was a favorite with the artist, who also depicted it in two sketches of the same period showing Madame de Pompadour.

Célèbre Espagnole

The subject of an etching with dry-point, in reverse, by Jules de Goncourt (Louvre, Rothschild Collection, INV. 19057/4 L.R.), published in L'Art du XVIIe Siècle in 1862, this drawing was described in the catalogue of the Sireul sale as "A Young Woman Seated, Dressed in the Spanish Style," in black and white chalk, and by P. Mantz, at the end of the 19th century, as "mix[ing] into the reality a little of that fantasy one finds in the reign of Louis XVI in Fragonard's Spanish ladies... There is a vague hint of the theatre in the chimerical princess' toilette and in the exaggeration of the ruffled band of the collar."

Boucher and Mme de Pompadour

Since the 18th century the type of costume shown here has been called "Spanish": a dress with bouffant sleeves and a ruff forming a collar at the neck. Dear to Van Loo and later to Fragonard, it was also much prized by Bouchard. Two of his sketches, at Waddesdon Manor and at the Louvre, also show the same costume. These have led some to see this drawing, and also the sketches entitled The Satin Dress (now in St. Petersburg and Stockholm), as sketches of the Marquise de Pompadour. This hypothesis is supported by the similarity between the two sketches of Louis XV's favorite with the now-lost painting which she sent to her brother the Marquis de Marigny when he was travelling in Italy.

Watteau's disciple

Jean de Jullienne called on Boucher to participate in the engraving of the Figures of Different Characters after Watteau, and in this sense the latter may well be considered to have been his real drawing-master. Boucher does not here achieve Watteau's simplicity and poetic realism, but is certainly capable of expressing the caprice of the dress and the charm of the face surrounded by its ruff. The search for decorative effect and the vigor and directness of the drawing are here combined with the generous modeling and fluent, relaxed composition that are the hallmarks of Boucher's mature style.

Bibliography

L. Duclaux, in Dessins du Louvre, école française, Paris, 1968, n 49.
P. Jean-Richard, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, Collection Edmond de Rothschild, Inventaire général des gravures, École française, I, L'oeuvre gravé de François Boucher dans la Collection Edmond de Rothschild, Paris, 1978, n 1068.
P. Jean-Richard, in cat. exp. François Boucher, gravures et dessins, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1971, n 110.
P. Jean-Richard, in cat. exp. Visages du Louvre : chefs-d'oeuvre du portrait dans les collections du Louvre, Tokyo, Musée national d'art occidental, 1991, n 102.
E. Launay, Les Frères Goncourt collectionneurs de dessins, Paris, Arthena, 1991, n 29.
F. Joulie, François Boucher hier et aujourd'hui, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 2003-2004, n 2.

Technical description

  • François BOUCHERParis, 1703 - Paris, 1770

    Seated young woman, dressed 'Spanish-style'

  • Black chalk, heightening in white and red chalks

    H. 34 cm; W. 24 cm

  • 404028

  • Prints and Drawings

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

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Additional information about the work

Bottom left in chalk: F. Boucher 1750