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A Girl at a Window
Louis-Léopold Boilly
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This intriguing picture is Boilly’s painted imitation of a print after one of his own compositions (possibly now lost). Although Boilly was an expert in trompe l’oeil, it is unlikely that he intended to trick the viewer into thinking they are looking at an actual print because he does not include the usual clues such as a turned-up corner or a tear or crease in the ‘paper’. Instead, this is an exercise in illusionism, as Boilly demonstrates how one medium (oil painting) can look like another (printing).

The painting follows the precedent of seventeenth-century Dutch artists, such as Gerrit Dou and Casper Netscher, who often used the framing device of a figure sitting at a window and included a relief carving below the windowsill. However, Boilly, who was fascinated by optics, also emphasises the activity of looking by including several optical devices such as telescopes and an eyeglass encouraging the viewer to think about what they are in fact seeing.

Key facts
Artist Louis-Léopold Boilly
Artist dates 1761 - 1845
Full title A Girl at a Window
Date made about 1799
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 55.2 x 45.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Presented by Emilie Yznaga, 1945
Inventory number NG5583
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings after 1600
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