François Boucher
(Paris, 1703-1770, Paris)
Pausing by the Fountain, 1765
Oil on canvas, 35.5 x 44 cm
Signed & dated lower left: F. Boucher 1765
Ananoff 616
This picture is part of a series of four pastoral paintings. Thematically, Boucher's pastoral idylls derive from the severely realistic formulations of the same subject in Dutch painting; however, Boucher, the Premier Peintre du Roi, infuses them an atmosphere of courtly gallantry. The two sleeping "putti" on the fountain relief symbolize the pastoral theme.
The picture was acquired by Randon de Boisset, an admirer of Boucher's; like the painter, he was fond of Dutch painting, and on a common journey they visited Flanders. In contrast to an extensive public whom Boucher managed to please with his pastoral representations, contemporary critics reproached the painter for the lack of truth to nature in these pictures. Denis Diderot asked: "where has one ever seen shepherds attired with such elegance, or so richly? What picture theme has ever assembled in one place … far from all the habitations of men, all these women, men, children, oxen, cows, sheep, dogs, bundles of straw, water … cauldrons?" (Œuvres complètes, vol. X, Salon of 1761). In the pastoral of 1765, Boucher has reduced the above-mentioned "properties": two stylishly clad shepherdesses chat among a goat, a donkey and a sheep at a fountain. The composition is accented by the freshness of the flesh tints, and by the gay attire of the woman with white flounces on sleeves and necks.
The painting has been only slightly retouched; parts of the sky have been done over, and the flesh tints have been partially renewed; the entire surface of the painting has become crackled.