Monday, 10 February 2014

Trompe l'oeil by Dominique Doncre

Dominique Doncre, Trompe l'oeil, 1785
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Arras
This trompe l'oeil by Dominique Doncre, the artist of the Le Bon portrait, is an attractive 18th century work. In a pleasant, self-regarding way, Doncre has painted the (seemingly) random content of his own work table.  I particularly like the "picture within a picture" with the plump complacent face of the artist on its pretend engraved page; in case we have any doubt who it is, Doncre has added "ego sum pictor"!  His signature and the date, 1785, are painted on the mock card below the splendid Ben Franklin specs.  

The painting seems to be just a virtuoso piece, no hidden moral, with no lurking vanitas messages.  

Doncre was a prolific producer of decorative pieces, trompe l'oeil, still life, grisaille and the like, but this is one of the few pictures on display and generally acknowledged as one of his best.  We know that the young Boilly, later an accomplished trompe l'oeil artist,  was in Arras at the time though whether he was a pupil or rival is not quite clear;  in either case Doncre may have felt the need to display his mastery.

Trompe l'oeil was particularly associated in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Low Countries and Northern France. Doncre himself was Flemish in origin and may have studied in Antwerp. The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Arras has this splendid, and much earlier work by Jean-François de Le Motte  dating from 1667, which is very similar to Doncre's composition.

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