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Title Pastorale
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist Boucher, Francois (French painter, etcher and draftsman, 1703–1770)
Date 1763 (dated)
Signed yes

This painting depicts a pastoral scene set on the edges of a wood with a young shepherd playing a pipe and a shepherdess in the act of giving him a crown of olive branches. A dog and a sheep complete the composition. It illustrates a typical Arcadian theme of love associated with music and innocent amusements. It is a fine example of Boucher's work, pervaded with mischievous pastoral scenes which would become the hallmark of his art and eventually of the whole rococo period.

François Boucher was born in Paris and probably received his first artistic training from his father before attending the Académie de France in Rome. He may also have travelled to Naples, Venice and Bologna. Around 1731 Boucher returned to Paris where he rapidly gained royal favour and interest from private collectors. He was a very prolific artist and produced a wide range of artworks from pastoral paintings to porcelain, tapestry and stage designs, deeply influencing the new Rococo movement.

Museum Number 374-1901
Inscription front cr (on fence) 'F. Boucher 1763'
Subject figure; animal (goat; dog); landscape
Measurements 67.3 × 55.8 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Mrs Julia Anne Bonnor 1901.
Provenance Capt. Charles S. Ricketts; by descent to his daughter Mrs Julia Anne Bonnor.
Publications C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London, 1973, p. 44, cat. no. 44; Diderot, Salon de 1765, Paris, 1984, p. 65.

This painting has been identified by Alastair Laing as a composition executed by Boucher in 1763. It is signed and dated on the fence above the goat although the inscription is now hardly visible. The painting was exhibited at the Salon in 1765 and is mentioned in Diderot's review, which gave a very negative account of it. This painting may derived from an earlier composition by Boucher entitled Le Berger récompensé (1749, Wallace Collection, London). There are several compositions of the same theme executed by Boucher in the 1740s, which recur throughout his career, e.g. Pensent-ils aux Raisins; (1747, Art Institute of Chicago) and Le joueur de flageolet, 1746 (whereabouts unknown), while especially close to our painting is A summer Pastoral (original title: La couronne accordée au berger). The two-year gap between the execution of the painting and its exhibition at the Salon may be explained by a series of facts. Boucher had just been appointed ‘Premier Peintre du Roi' in 1765 and was expected to show as many works as possible at the Salon. Due to illness, he did not have enough recent pictures to present and had to include slightly earliest paintings such as the present one.

The taste for pastoral scenes was particularly strong in France in the first half of the eighteenth century and belongs to a literary tradition that can be traced back to Honoré d'Urfé's Astrée and the writings of Madeleine de Scudéry, to Petrarch's Bucolica and Virgil's Eclogues, and finally to the Idylls of Theocritus. In the eighteenth century, Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloé, published in 1718, became the favourite book of fashionable Parisian society and, in this regard, by putting on the dress of a shepherdess, a lady was declaring her disposition for love. The pastoral imagery pervaded with putti, mythological figures, shepherds and shepherdesses in idyllic landscapes created by Boucher would become the hallmark of the Rococo movement, which started to wane toward the end of the century.

Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti



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