Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Pierre-Antoine Baudouin

Greuze has made himself a painter-preacher of good morals, Baudouin, a painter-preacher of bad; Greuze, a painter of the family and of respectable people Baudouin, a painter of rakes and houses of ill repute
 (Diderot Salon of 1765)

Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (1723-69) was an artist for the mid-century world of irresponsible pleasures and frivolous societies....  A pupil of Boucher, he took  his master's work to one logical conclusion with a prolific oeuvre of mildly erotic and highly popular miniature boudoir scenes in gouache. In 1758 he had married Boucher's beautiful younger daughter and model Marie-Elisabeth and in August 1763 he gained respectability through his election to the Académie royale. He exhibited in the Salons throughout the 1760s. His reception piece was a historical subject  (Hyperides pleading the cause of Phryne before the Areopagus, now in the Louvre) and he apparently received some minor royal commissions -a Life of the Virgin and a frontispiece for the Gospels intended for the Chapelle royale.  But these serious subjects were an exception..  Diderot described him as: "A nice young man, attractive, kind, witty, a bit of a libertine..." (Bon garçon, qui a de la figure, de la douceur, de l'esprit, un peu libertin)" - and, comparing him adversely with Greuze, roundly condemned his art as immoral.  It was even rumoured, perhaps maliciously, that Baudouin's early death was the result of "libertinage".

One of the best source of information Baudouin is the database of the Utpictura18 project, an interdiciplinary study by the Centre interdisciplinaire d'étude des littératures d'Aix-Marseille (CIELAM).  This brings together images and contemporary commentaries on paintings, particularly, for Baudouin, the Salons of Diderot.  Here are a few of the more interesting pictures: 

Salon of 1765

Diderot  noted the appeal of Baudouin's depictions of  illicit sex and sexuality; he complained that all the young girls (and quite a few old men) manoeuvred themselves into a position  where they could eye distractedly Baudouin's paintings, particularly  The Peasant Girl Quarreling with Her Mother and The Cherry Picker.

The Peasant Girl Quarrelling with Her Mother (La Fille querellée par sa mère)

"The Peasant Girl Quarreling with Her Mother is the best of Baudouin's small pictures; it's better drawn than the others and rather agreeably coloured, though still a bit drab"  A second painted, which suggests an earlier episode in the story, appeared in the Salon for 1767.
See: http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr/GenerateurNotice.php?numnotice=A4601

The empty quiver (Le carquois épuisé)


Described by Diderot under the title "Hope unfulfilled", this picture was named The Empty Quiver in the etching by Nicolas Delaunay. The setting, says Diderot, is a boudoir "appointed for pleasure"; the young man stretched out nonchalantly on the chaise longue is reluctant to make further effort: like the the elaborately depicted statue of Cupid, he has shot his last bolt. The "fille" standing beside him, applying rouge, gives him an irritated look, as if to say "What, is that all you know how to do?"  Elsewhere Diderot conceded that technically "the weariness of the man on the sofa of the prostitute freshening her rouge is not bad."  He likened Baudouin to the castrated Abelard:  his work lacked the masculine rectitude of great art.
See: http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr/GenerateurNotice.php?numnotice=A6495
See also: Melissa Lee Hyde, Making up the rococo:  François Boucher and his critics (2006) p.70-72 [extract on Google Books].

The Confessional

Two young gentlemen disrupt a fashionable crowd at the confessional - the Archbishop of Paris had the work withdrawn from the Salon as impious, though as Grimm pointed out, he seemed happy enough to leave Baudouin's other, morally reprehensible pictures, in place  In 1763 an earlier religious scene, of a priest hearing catechism, had similarly been removed.

Le Confessionnal.  Engraving of 1777 by Pierre-Etienne Moitte
See: http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr/GenerateurNotice.php?numnotice=B0554

Salon of 1767

 The marriage bed (Le Coucher de la mariée)

 Musée des beaux-arts du Canada (no.28441)

This piece was a study for a work executed by Baudouin on the occasion of the marriage of the marquis de Marigny,  brother of Madame de Pompadour. A half naked bride is forced into bed by her women, aided and abetted by her young husband. Diderot, sensing Baudouin's real objective was to titillate, slated this picture, though his own alternative scene, the modest and trembling young bride parting from her parents, seems just as sexually charged. Diderot concluded that no respectable French girl would act up in front of the servants; the picture more closely resembled a courtesan and her customer.  The bride was quite well-drawn but her husband, in his dressing gown, resembled an "empty sack".  Diderot conceded that the servant turning back the bedcovers was "rather well conceived."

See: http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr/GenerateurNotice.php?numnotice=A6369

Le fruit de l’amour secret  (The fruit of secret love)

Engraving of 1777 by François Voyez,  British Museum (detail)

In a comfortable interior a woman sitting in an armchair in front of a canopy bed, holds out her hand to her lover.  On the left, a midwife hands over her illegitimate new-born to an unknown man.  Versions of this picture exist in various prints.

Diderot imagined a similar but pathos-filled scene in which a poor newly-delivered mother was obliged to abandon her child through necessity.  Badouin's picture did not fare well against this model; his new mother was clearly a courtesan or a strayed aristocrat rather than a woman of the people. "Composition stiff, devoid of truth, execution weak", noted Diderot, though he admitted  that the figures were well-proportioned and nicely arranged.

See: http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr/GenerateurNotice.php?numnotice=A4604

Salon of 1769

The honest model (Le Modèle honnête)

Washington, National Gallery of Art

The theme of this gouache, a poor girl driven to abandon modesty and pose nude for an artist, is made clear by the original title in Latin on the picture frame: Quid non cogit Egestas? ("What does not Poverty compel one to do?")  Diderot had previously suggested the theme to Greuze and did not appreciate Baudouin's rendition; according to him,  the older woman, was not a solicitous mother but "a vile creature who does some villainous business".  Fragonard, who copied Rubens with Baudouin in the Galérie du Luxembourg in 1767, essayed a similar scene;  his work is generally considered more successful, though still morally ambivalent, with its strong sense of collusion between the protagonists.

See: http://utpictura18.univ-montp3.fr/GenerateurNotice.php?numnotice=A0546&derniere

See also  [Extracts on Google Books]: 

"Baudouin, The Honest Model 1769" in  Colin B. Bailey et al.,  The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard;  masterpieces of French genre painting.  (2003) p.240-1

Pierre Rosenberg, Fragonard  Metropolitan Museum of Art (1988) p.316-7.



"Baudouin" in Utpictura18 - Base de donnés iconographiques
(Projet Utpictura18: CIELAM, le Centre interdisciplinaire d'étude des littératures d'Aix-Marseille)

List of texts from Diderot's Salons: 

English translations of the Salons :  John Goodman:  Diderot on Art.  Vol.1 (Salon of 1765); Vol.2 (Salon of 1767)

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