Young Woman Holding a Rose
(François Boucher)


Such modest scale works are relatively rare in Boucher’s oeuvre, but the image is typical of many that he reused repeatedly in compositions small and large. It has recently been compared with a center design from a Gobelins tapestry of an almost identical image, but since the tapestry design has not reversed the image it must be eliminated as the direct source. This painting was conceived more probably as an independent work, as was the Girl Smelling a Rose (New York, Frick Collection) and a series of later ovals. The Frick painting, dated to 1754 by Alexandre Ananoff, in his catalogue raisonné of the artist (François Boucher, Peintures, 2 Vols, Paris, 1976) and related by him incorrectly to the same Gobelins tapestry, had a distinguished provenance, having belonged to the hugely wealthy Wittelsbach Duke of Zweibrücken (Deux-Ponts), whose passion for his French mistress had kept him in Paris rather than on his Rhineland state. That the Frick later downgraded the attribution to “school of Boucher” was probably the result of a general lack of understanding of the artist’s later work, rather than a sensible judgment on its quality, as Dr Colin Bailey has recently observed (verbally). Like the Frick painting, undated and probably later than Ananoff suggests, our elegant oval is an autograph work probably dating from the early 1760s, although Alastair Laing (author of the François Boucher exhibition catalogue), while confirming its authenticity, has attributed to it a later date, circa 1766-69).

This attractive young woman gazes solemnly at the viewer, with an almost trancelike expression, perhaps brought on by the pleasurable perfume of the rose she holds in her right hand. The treatment of the flowers, the curve of her breast, the complex folds of her shirt, and the blue silk of her dress, are all effects of which Boucher had long-established his mastery. She could have stepped, robed or nude, from any number of mythologies or pastorals, but here, in relatively modest attire, she strikes a more solemn pose. Two slightly larger ovals, from 1761, Young Woman with a Tambourine (Switzerland, Private Collection) and a presumed Portrait of the Artist’s daughter, Mme Baudouin (Paris, Musée Cognacq Jay), both like this work unsigned but larger in scale, are stylistically close and probably date from the same period. The Young Woman with a Dove, neither signed nor dated but given by Ananoff (vol II, no. 689) to the artist’s last year, shares almost identical dimensions but must date earlier in the decade. This latter composition also portrays a young woman in contemplative mood, décolleté, with similar costume and flowers, but embracing a dove instead of a rose. It may possibly be a pendant to our painting. The dating for the latter work is based on the date 1770 inscribed on a variant of the composition, but this variant is typical of the last works, with a harder outline, and less refined, as Ananoff himself noted while commenting that the dated work indeed derived from the undated painting.

22 x 18 ½ ins. 55.9 x 47 cm
Oil on canvas

Matthiesen Gallery & Stair Sainty Matthisen, ‘Spring Catalogue’, 2001

Where is It?
Acquired by a Private Collector
Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Genre or Daily Life
2001-European Paintings-From 1600-1917.
Baroque, Rococo, Romanticism, Realism, Futurism.

(Click on image above)
Price band
Sold or not available