Oeuvre

Fire screen representing the attributes of the music in front of a white marble mantlepiece in trompe l’oeil


Michel BOYER (1668-1724)

Oil on canvas and panel
98 x 153 cm

Provenance : - Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, auctioneer Me Ader, 26th February 1942, n° 23, reproduced (then attributed to Jean-Baptiste Oudry)
- Anonymous sale, Neuilly, auctioneer Aguttes, 12th December 2006, n°42, reproduced.

Against a neutral grey background is a chair carved with foliage and shells on which rest a violin, a flute and a sheet music on a lectern flanked by two silver candlesticks. On the flagstones and under the chair is represented a guitar adorned by a striped and knotted ribbon and three books, one being open. Executed on canvas, this allegory of the music is framed by a wood shaped panel painted in the imitation of a mottled white marble that gives the illusion of the frame of a fireplace.

A painting, formerly attributed to Jean-Baptiste Oudry until a cleaning revealed a signature and a date, Boyer 1693 (canvas, 81 x 99 cm), is housed in the Louvre. This discovery led to its comparison with another painting kept in the Louvre, signed and dated Boyer 1709 (canvas, 87 x 101 cm), the composition of which is identical to that of our fire screen. The point of view is close to ours but the elements are not arranged in front of a mantelpiece. This frame executed in trompe l’oeil in our version makes it more elegant and realist.

In 1685, in the gallery of the Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris, Michel Boyer exhibited, a large trompe-l’oeil decoration that met an enthusiastic criticism: « il y a …une basse de viole que l’on irait prendre à six pas de là , comme si c’était un véritable instrument. Une chaise,…, le dos tourné auprès de la table et une autre couchée, qu’on croirait hors du pavé, trompent si fort la vue qu’on ne peut imaginer que ce ne soient pas de vraies chaises ».

This artist is badly known today but he was received at the Royal Academy in 1701, then Counsellor to the same Academy at the death of Jean-Baptiste Blain de Fontenay and “peintre ordinaire du Roi”. Michel Boyer went to Rome where his presence is attested in 1689, according the expert Michel Faré. When he returned to Paris, the quality of his views in perspective induced him to execute decorations for the king at Marly and in various residences.