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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Adoration of the Shepherds

François Boucher (French, Paris 1703–1770 Paris)
Gouache over black chalk underdrawing, on paper, mounted on canvas
16 1/4 x 11 in. (41.3 x 27.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, David T. Schiff Gift, and Rogers and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds, 1997
Accession Number:
Not on view
Known for graceful mythologies and charming scenes of rustic genre, Boucher produced relatively few religious paintings for a history painter of his standing. Those he did make were typically of an intimate scale intended for private devotion. These small paintings are quintessential expressions of the Rococo idiom, typified by lithe, elegant figures, a lush handling of the medium, and a preference for compositions based on the arabesque. Here, in the rustic subject of the Adoration of the Shepherds, Flemish painting and the oil sketches of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione are recalled, but in Boucher's hands the subject takes on a lightness and delicacy that distinguishes it from such sources.
Although similar in composition to an altarpiece of the same subject commissioned just before 1750 by Madame de Pompadour, the famed mistress of King Louis XV, this sketch was likely painted at a later date as an independent work. In both the completed altarpiece and this sketch Boucher uses a transient golden light radiating out from the celestial opening to anchor his composition. The heavenly light falls upon the Christ child, and the adoring onlookers cast vibrant, translucent shadows. Boucher skillfully explores the richness of light and color especially apparent in the opaque, creamy clouds and the surprising dabs of red paint in the flesh tones of the Virgin and Child.
(Perrin Stein)
Marking: Partial collector's mark of Damery (Lugt 2862) at the lower right; collector's mark of Jules and Edmond de Goncourt (Lugt 1089) at bottom center
Chevalier de Damery (French, died 1803 (?))his sale, Paris, November 18-19, 1803, lot 2.; Mathieu-Guillaume-Thérèse de Villenave (French, Haute-Garonne 1762–1846 Paris)Villenave sale, Paris, June 14-18, 1847 (auction postponed until February 1, 1848), lot 67; Edmond de Goncourt (French, Paris 1822–1896 Paris)Lugt 1089; Goncourt collection sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Feb. 15-17, 1897, lot 23.; Etienne-François Haro acquired at Goncourt sale; Baron Joseph Raphaël Vitta (1860–1942)His collection sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, June 27-28, 1924, lot 30; Leon Lowenstein Lowenstein sale, Galerie Jean Charpentier, Paris, December 17, 1935, lot 17; John Pape (South Africa and London)Acquired at Lowenstein sale, Paris, 1935; Mme. Carterton; Vendor: Wildenstein & Co., Ltd., London
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," November 26, 2012–February 24, 2013.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paper Chase: Two Decades of Collecting Drawings and Prints," December 9, 2014–March 16, 2015.

Michel 748, 757
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Catalogue descriptif des dessins de maîtres anciens exposés à l'École des Beaux-Arts, mai-juin 1879. École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, second. Paris, 1879, cat. no. 518.

Edmond de Goncourt L'art du dix-huitième siècle. 2 vols., 3rd edition. Paris, 1880–1882, p. 188.

Edmond de Goncourt La maison d'un artiste. 2 vols., nouvelle. Paris, 1881, p. 54, vol. 1.

André Michel François Boucher: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné. Paris, 1906, cat. no. 748, 757, pp. 41, 42.

Carlo Jeannerat "L'adoration des bergers' de F. Boucher." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français. Paris, 1932, pp. 81-82.

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Alexandre Ananoff, Daniel Wildenstein François Boucher. 2 vols., Lausanne and Paris, 1976, cat. no. 362, fig. no. 1064, p. 64, vol. 2, ill.

Alexandre Ananoff, Daniel Wildenstein L'opera completa di Boucher. Milan, 1980, cat. no. 384, fig. no. 116, p. 117, ill.

Sonia Dean Master Drawings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Exh. cat., Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria. 1980, p. 90.

François Boucher: A Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Garden. Exh. cat. Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 1980, cat. no. 19, fig. no. 19, p. 40, ill.

Denys Sutton François Boucher. Ex. cat. Tokyo, April 24 - June 23, 1982, cat. no. 44, pp. 174, 76, ill.

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George R. Goldner, Colta Ives, Carolyn Logan, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1996-1997." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.s., vol. 55, no. 2, Autumn 1997, p. 42, ill.

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Perrin Stein, Mary Tavener Holmes Eighteenth-Century French Drawings in New York Collections Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1999, cat. no. 52, pp. 118-120, ill.

Jo Hedley François Boucher: Seductive Visions. Paris, 2004, cat. no. footnote 83, pp. 120, 201.

The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier: A Centennial Celebration of Wildenstein's Presence in New York. Exh. cat. Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Paris, 2005, cat. no. 107 (Appendix 1), p. 68, ill.

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