Lot notes from Christie’s website, with Japanese translation.



François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)

An Allegory of Water; and An Allegory of Earth



Image: Christie’s
François Boucher (Paris 1703-1770)
An Allegory of Water; and An Allegory of Earth

These lively and vigorously painted allegorical decorations are typical of the many small, brightly colored canvases produced by Boucher and his workshop to ornament the spaces above doorways in the elaborately carved and gilded boiserie paneling that was the fashion in mid-18th century Parisian hôtels. Boucher often employed traditional allegorical subjects for such multi-paneled schemes — the Four Seasons, the Four Times of Day, the Seasons or Elements — as they imposed a natural unity on the decorative ensembles. More elaborate versions of the theme of Water and Earth — depicting the mythological tales of Arion Rescued by the Dolphin representing Water (Princeton University Art Museum) and Vertumnus and Pomona as Earth (Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio) — were painted by Boucher in 1748/1749 as part of a set of overdoors of the Four Elements for the royal chateau of La Muette.



Image: princeton.edu Photo: Bruce M White Arion on the Dolphin, 1748 Oil on canvas


Image: columbusmuseum.org
Earth: Vetrumnus and Pomona
François Boucher (French, 1703 – 70)
1749. Oil on canvas, 37 3/16 x 53 5/8″. 1980.027

In the present pair of paintings, The Allegory of Water is signed and dated 1753 and its gamboling putti are especially well-drawn and observed, revealing the masterly hand of Boucher himself, as Alastair Laing has noted (in correspondence, 21 December 1994 and 18 April 2013). The Allegory of Earth, while charming, displays somewhat different painterly characteristics and a greater broadness of handling, suggesting to Laing that it was largely executed by a different member of Boucher’s studio with less participation by Boucher himself than is found in The Allegory of Water.


Our thanks to Alastair Laing for his assistance in cataloguing the present lot.