Les vendages (The Grape Harvest), 1756
François Boucher (France, 1703–1770)
Oil on canvas
65 x 46 1/2 inches
Gift of Ellnora D. Krannert 1972-12-1
François Boucher, an acclaimed painter as well as teacher and court painter to Madame de Pompadour, began his professional career by engraving the works of Antoine Watteau for publication. He won the Prix de Rome in 1723 and later spent four years in Italy, where his major interest was the paintings of Titian, Paolo Veronese, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. He was the most influenced by the latter, acclaimed as heir to the celebrated Venetian decorative tradition.
Boucher began designing tapestries in his thirties and became inspector for the Gobelins tapestry works in 1755. Les vendanges is a cartoon for part of a larger tapestry on view at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Two children in the foreground pose as if harvesting grapes, but their spotless clothing and gracious gestures place them in the realm of pastoral poetry, far removed from the sweat and labor of a real vineyard. The tanned skin and simpler clothing of a third child, standing in the background, are more consistent with the appearance of an actual worker. The children and decorative foliage create a scene that would have been ideal for decorating the walls of a drawing room in mid-eighteenth century Paris. Indeed, the painting is an excellent example of the rococo style, filled with charm and gaiety.
Structural details strengthen the composition; the three children form a triangle and the lines of the stick the boy carries combine with the girl's extended leg to create a second shape. The fluidity of the clothing, the figures' gracefulness, and the softness of the colors are all characteristic of Boucher.
Text by Margaret A. Frampton and Robert B. Smith, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008