The picture is an autograph replica of a work (location unknown) that is fully signed and dated 1766 and was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1767. A critic of the Salon described that first version as a portrait of a boy with an ebony-colored dog with jet black eyes. In general, portraits of children by Drouais were preferred to those representing adults.
When writing about the 1767 Salon, the critic Denis Diderot (1713–1784), mentioned that one of Drouais's sitters was accompanied by "un chien d'ébèn avec des yeux de jais" (a dog of ebony color with eyes of jet). The artist's exhibits were a portrait of the comtesse de Brionne (location unknown), number 61, and, under number 62, several portraits ("Plusieurs Portraits"). What must be the primary version of Boy with a Black Spaniel is signed and dated 1766: it could have been exhibited at the Salon in the following year and mentioned by Diderot, but there is not enough information about the other portraits Drouais showed either to prove or disprove this possibility.
The boy in the 1766 picture is described as blond, with black eyes, and wearing a rose-colored coat with large buttons of the same fabric over a blue waistcoat with gold buttons. Here the same boy is dressed in brown. While the face and lace are painted with the usual care, Drouais is uninterested in the dog's anatomy.
[Katharine Baetjer 2014]
Jules S. Bache, New York (1926–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 49; 1943, no. 48)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 48.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill., identifies this picture as Drouais's portrait of the son of President Desvieux, which was no. 82 in the Salon of 1761, from the collection of the Earl of Pembroke, and with Wildenstein.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 49, ill.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 48, ill.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 145, 148–50, ill., as a replica by Drouais of a portrait Diderot describes in the 1767 Salon under no. 62, a boy holding a dog of ebony with eyes of jet; identifies the original as the portrait signed and dated 1766.
Else Marie Bukdahl. Diderot: Critique d'art. Vol. 1, Théorie et pratique dans les Salons de Diderot. Copenhagen, 1980, pp. 145, 274 n. 189, fig. 58, illustrates our picture as a replica.
According to Wildenstein & Co. in 2000, the firm bought a version of Boy with a Black Spaniel, oval, signed "Drouais le fils" and dated 1766 (58 x 52 cm), at the Monsieur D[elaroff, St. Petersburg] sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 26, 1913. It had belonged to the late comte de Pembroke (sale, Paris, June 30, 1862, no. 13) and Meffre père (sale, Paris, March 9–10, 1863, no. 27). Wildenstein sold it later in 1913 to a member of the Rothschild family. See the 1913 sale catalogue and Henri Frantz, "La Curiosité," L'Art décoratif 1 (1913), pp. 199–200, 202, ill.
In a manuscript catalogue of Jules Bache's collection written after 1943, Louis S. Levy states that Bache bought the painting that is the subject of this entry "from Wildenstein" on May 17, 1926, but Wildenstein & Co. cannot confirm the sale nor find any trace of the work in their records.