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Studio of François Boucher, The Billet-Doux

Key facts
Full title The Billet-Doux
Artist Studio of François Boucher
Artist dates 1703 - 1770
Date made 1754
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 95.3 × 127 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Edith Cragg, as part of the John Webb Bequest, 1925
Inventory number NG4080
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Billet-Doux
Studio of François Boucher

Two shepherdesses relax in a lush woodland garden as the younger of the two attaches a sealed love letter (a billet-doux) to the neck of a white dove or carrier pigeon.

This painting is typical of the pastoral scenes at which Boucher particularly excelled. It is one of numerous studio copies made of The Love Letter (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which he painted for Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, in 1750. The format of the Washington painting is almost vertical, but this copy is horizontal. As a result, the composition has been reduced at the top and bottom and has additions at both sides. These include the base of a column on the right-hand side and the young boy leaning on a gate on the left of the picture. Variations in painting quality suggest that several people in Boucher’s large studio may have worked on this copy.

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