JULIEN-LÉOPOLD, called JULES, BOILLY
Paris 1796–1874 Paris
Portrait de chasseur et de son chien, 1819
Signed and dated on the dog's collar, Jul. Boilly/1819 ; inscribed on the etiquette on the old frame, Jules BOILLY/Portrait de L. BOILLY Peintre
Pastel and black chalk
29 ¾ x 18 ⅜ inches
755 x 466 mm
Sale: Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Vente de dessins anciens des écoles française & hollandaise, [André Couturier, commissaire-priseur ; Paul Roblin, expert], 17 May 1907, lot 4 (as Portrait de Louis Boilly, peintre)
Private collection, France
P. Marmottan, Le peintre Louis Boilly (1761-1845), Paris, 1913, p. 216 (as Portrait de Louis Boilly, peintre)
In this large and beautiful pastel, an elegant and distinguished-looking hunter is shown walking through a wood, holding in his left hand his rifle while his right hand rests on a powder flask. He wears a large ‘chapeau de paille de forme tromblon,’ as the 1907 sale catalogue records. His chocolate-brown hunting jacket contrasts smartly with his chamois-colored moleskin trousers and leather leggings, and is set off with a colorful blue, red, and white silk scarf tied loosely around his neck. The sartorial details of his dress, stylish and swagger, suggest that this is very much a ‘fancy’ picture. The hunter appears as though he has just spotted prey. His gun dog turns and stares at his master in readiness.
The sitter traditionally has been identified as the artist’s father, Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845), painter of manners and morals at the turn of the nineteenth century. Paul Marmottan (1856-1932), art historian and collector of Boilly, first published the drawing as Portrait de Louis Boilly, peintre in his 1913 monograph on the artist.¹ The pastel has not been seen for over a hundred years since it last appeared at the Hôtel Drouot in 1907.
Despite the physiognomy of the subject being similar to recorded portraits of him, Louis Boilly was not a sportsman. He was famously near-sighted and generally portrayed wearing spectacles. It is more likely that his son, Jules, has simply here made a stylish picture of a hunter (« en costume de chasseur », as the 1907 sale catalogue describes it), with his English springer spaniel, reflecting the Anglophile taste of the time, rather than an imaginary portrait of his father on a shoot. Brilliantly rendered in pastel and of great scale, this chic portrait of sportsman with his dog is the masterpiece of the young Julien-Léopold Boilly.
Jules Boilly studied drawing with his father before entering the studio of Baron Gros (1771-1835) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he assiduously copied the Old Masters. He quickly became a master draughtsman and lithographer, and was responsible for portraying all the members of the academy between 1822 and 1825 in his Iconographie des membres de L'Institut de France. Boilly left for Rome in 1826 and travelled through southern Italy with his friend, poet, and dramatist, Casimir Delavigne (1793-1843), and his brother, Germain Delavigne (1790-1868), dramatist and librettist. As a result of this journey, Boilly returned to Paris with nearly 50 oil sketches and 100 drawings and watercolors.² He exhibited for the first time in the Salon of 1827 with his debut submission, Des paysans des Etats du Pape, allant Rome faire leurs dévotions dans l'année du jubilé de 1825, apercoivent de loin le dôme de Saint-Pierre, for which he was awarded a gold medal. He continued to exhibit regularly at the Salon until 1865.
Jules Boilly had a passion for two painters, Murillo and Prud'hon; and replicated their work in drawings, prints, and paintings, precise copies that were difficult to distinguish from the original. He also made several portraits of Prud’hon as an old man. Boilly was exceptionally sophisticated and well-educated, spoke seven languages, translated Persian poetry, and was an avid billiards player, travelling across Europe with his cue stick. Like his father, he excelled at portraiture, generally small scale, which he made in black chalk, occasionally heightened with pastel. He sitters included such social, literary, and cultural figures of the Romantic period as the comte de Forbin, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Humboldt, Cuvier, Rossini, Georges Sand, Talma, Méhul, and, of course, his father, whose portrait he gave to the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, in 1862.³
Marmottan, op. cit., p. 216.
See his sale: Succession Jules Boilly, Catalogue des Tableaux, dessins, estampes par Louis et Jules Boilly, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, December 14-16, 1874.
Inv. P406; signed and dated 1823, oil on canvas, 130 x 98 cm; see A. Scottez-De Wambrechies and F. Raymond, Boilly (1761-1845), exhibition catalogue, Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille, 2011, p. 96, fig. 1.