New acquisitions: French master drawings from the 1700s

By on November 22, 2017

The National Museum has acquired three drawings, edited by Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762), François Boucher (1703-1770) and Nicolas Bernard Lépicié (1735-1784), some of the 17th century prime French artists. There are two portraits as well as a figure study to one of the museum’s most famous paintings, Venus triumph. They show each one on the independent role of the drawing art conquered in France at this time.

Edme Bouchardon’s drawing is a portrait depicting Geneviève-Thérèse Mariette, daughter of his close friend, the famous engraver and art collector Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774). Mariette had, among other things, cataloged the banker Pierre Crozat’s (1665-1740) collection. It was sold at an auction in Paris in 1741. There Carl-Gustaf Tessin made extensive acquisition of master drawings, today in the possession of the National Museum. On the back of the drawing, Mariette himself has written that this is a portrayal of the daughter, performed by Edme Bouchardon in 1736. The following year, the artist put out six drawings at the Paris Salon, two of which represented Mariette’s children. The Nationalmuseum’s acquisition is described in the exhibition catalog as “little girl in bonnet”. The portrait is an exemplary example of Bouchardon’s drawing art and the technique he was a master in. The drawing is a complete piece of art in itself. The model is seen in profile and looks, maybe slightly shy, under its bonnet. Through sharp contours and gradual shadowings made with red-crayon, Bouchardon has built volumes that give an almost three-dimensional effect. Works like this and the fact that the artist actually put them in the lounge helped to strengthen the status of the drawing as an art form in its own right.

The recently acquired drawing of Boucher is a study of one of the key figures of Venus triumph, many of which are regarded as the artist’s most important work. The drawing corresponds directly to the triton on the right, which lifts and supports a najad. She, in turn, presents a seashell and Venus offers a pearl strap. When the triton lifts najaden, he twists the body and Boucher has on a, as it seems, free but still precisely way caught the muscles game. Bouchers alignment in red and black chalk is powerful and safe. The sensual feature that is characteristic of the artist and, as is evident in the painting, is perhaps even more prominent in this study. Boucher has not yet hidden the nudity of the najaden, and the triton’s lift becomes here also a cool embrace. The drawing is the only known preliminary study of Venus triumph.

The last drawing is a preliminary work, but at the same time gives the feeling of being a completed work. Nicolas Bernard Lépicié studied for Carle van Loo (1705-1765) and became as a story painter member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1769. Afterward, he began to devote more attention to genetic engineering. Lépicié’s drawing is a study of the man in the painting An old beggar with children, signed and dated 1777, today in an American private collection. The drawing is, however, fully elaborated and the sad eyes of the begging man are as strong here as in the painting. Preliminary study, despite the fact that Lépicié has been convinced of the possibility of drawing, as a completed work of art, it seems that during the work. Possibly this was also the reason why he signed the drawing.

The three above-mentioned works are excellent examples of French drawing art in the 17th century. Due to its direct connection with Jean Pierre-Mariette, the role of drawing art in the Salon and the only preserved study of the central 17th century Venus triumph, Bouchardon’s and Boucher’s drawings make art history significant acquisition.

Nationalmuseum has no government funds to acquire artisan art and art without the collections enriched by gifts and private foundation and funds. The acquisitions have been made possible through a generous contribution from Hedda and N.D. Qvists Memorial Fund and Wiros Fund.

Helena Olofsson, Culture & Music | Stockholm