After 1800, Louis-Léopold Boilly specialized almost exclusively in genre scenes. For these finished compositions, he commonly executed preparatory drawings in black and white chalk on brown paper as in this example. Here a clown dressed in a ruff and Harlequin-inspired costume sneaks away an unidentified bulbous object, as a woman sleeps in a chair beside him. The clown raises his brow and puckers his lips, and he resembles a second clown (also with ruff and collar) featured in Boilly's humorous oil on canvas, Thirty-five Expressive Heads, c. 1823-28 (William I. Koch Collection, United States). While the figures are quite different in composition, it is clear that Boilly relied on his têtes d'expressions for later projects.
A Clown and a Sleeping Woman
Black and white chalk on brown paper.
5 1/2 x 7 1/16 inches (139 x 179 mm)
The Joseph F. McCrindle Collection.
Inscribed on verso, in graphite, "par J. Boilly".
Joseph F. McCrindle, New York (McCrindle collection no. A1257).