François Boucher

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François Boucher
Four Heads of Cherubim
Black, red, and white chalk, on gray paper.
12 9/16 x 9 7/8 inches (319 x 252 mm)
Purchased from the estate of J.P. Morgan, Jr., 1943.
III, 104b

Watermark: none visible through lining.


Inscribed in pen and brown ink at lower left, "f. Boucher" (with paraph of Pierre Remy?).

Provenance: Boucher's son-in-law, Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (1723-1769); his sale, Paris, 15 February, 1770, part of lot 105: "Deux feuilles sur chacun sont quatre têtes d'Anges, l'une au crayon blanc & à la pierre noire estompée, l'autre aux trois crayons aussi estompées sur papier bleu" (sold for 18 livres 19 sous); Dr. Sorbet; his sale, Paris, Hôtel d'Aligré, 1 April 1776, lot 81 under "Desseins montés sous verre", "Une gloire d'Ange, dessinée aux trois crayons, sur papier gris, par François Boucher, hauteur 11 pouces 6 lignes, largeur 9 pouces 6 lignes"; possibly Desperet sale in 1865 (according to Hippolyte Mireur, Dictionnaire des ventes d'art, 1894, p. 397 as "Quatres tệtes d'enfants, sur la mệme feuille," Vente X, Mai "Tệte d'enfants. Dessin: 61 fr.," according to Mireur . Dict. Des Ventes d'Art, p. 402; Robert Langton Douglas (1864-1901); from whom purchased in 1904 for £50 by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913),New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943); purchased from his estate.

The favorite artist of Mme. de Pompadour, Boucher is known to have executed many paintings on her commission, including a number of religious subjects such as "The Adoration of the Shepherds", "The Education of the Virgin", and "The Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John".
This highly decorative drawing might seem to have been intended as an independent work to be framed and enjoyed in the "salon" or "boudoir". In fact, as Regina Slatkin has pointed out, Boucher made these studies in connection with "Saint John the Baptist and a Glory of Angels", now in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (For a reproduction of this painting, see Versailles and elsewhere, 2002-2003, no. 67.) Some of the cherubs, notably the pair at the left and one of the cherubs at the center of the page, appear in a cloud and tree-shaded glory above Saint John, Mme. de Pompadour's patron saint in this painting executed by Boucher during the 1750s.
Groups of cherubs are present in all of Boucher's devotional paintings, and the artist, who had a son and two daughters of his own, demonstrated a real feeling for children that comes across in his paintings and drawings. No fewer than five "livres de groupes d'enfants" are included in his engraved work. Boucher also used the right pair of cherubs in this drawing in the upper left corner of his painting of "Le sommeil de l'enfant Jésus" (1758) in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow. (For a reproduction of this painting, see Ananoff and Wildenstein, 1976, II, no. 498).
Mrs. Slatkin drew attention to the old inscription "f. Boucher" and a paraph which appears at the lower left margin of the Morgan sheet. The inscription and paraph apparently occur together on a number of Boucher's finest drawings and may be that of Pierre Remy, the well-known expert and marchand d'art, who oversaw most of the finest Parisian sales in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Another version of the cherubs, also in trois crayons but executed on blue paper has appeared at Hôtel Drouot in Paris twice during the 1980s, 27 November 1986, lot 21, repr.and 3 January 1988. lot 14, repr. Attributed to François Boucher, this almost exact copy is slightly smaller (283 x 245 mm) and has no inscription and paraph.
Curatorial remarks by Cara Dufour Denison.

Associated names: 

Douglas, A. Langton, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.
Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1867-1943, former owner.


"Review of the Activities and Major Acquisitions of the Library, 1941-1948", The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1949, p. 93.
Treasures from the Pierpont Morgan Library : Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1957, no. 100, pl. 62.
Pierpont Morgan Library. Major Acquisitions of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1924-1974. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1974. Vol. 2: Drawings, p. xiii, no. 27, repr.
Alexandre Ananoff, with the collaboration of Daniel Wildenstein, "François Boucher", 2 vols., Lausanne and Paris, 1976, II, p. 40, under no. 340, fig. 988.
European drawings, 1375-1825 / catalogue compiled by Cara D. Denison & Helen B. Mules ; with the assistance of Jane V. Shoaf. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1981, no. 102, repr.
Denison, Cara D. French Drawings, 1550-1825. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984, no. 52.
Denison, Cara D. French Master Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1993, no. 54, repr. in color.

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