Wednesday, June 9, 2010

18th century Boiserie/paneling at the Boston Museum of Art

I spent a lovely two weeks in Boston last August for my birthday. I thought I was escaping the hot dog days of Baltimore's summer for a cool New England getaway. Boy was I wrong. Upon arriving in Boston I felt like Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen. Boston was hotter then Baltimore and reminded me of the heat and humidity of my old stumping ground New Orleans. Every day I went out and explored Museums and Antique shops. I fell in love with the Ann and William Elfers Gallery of 18th century art at The Boston Museum of Art and visited this room a few times on my trip. The room was amazing! including works of art by 18th century French master François Boucher, Sèvres Porcelain, 18th century gilded French furniture, items own by French Queen Marie Antoinette and my favorite a set of eight ornately carved and gilded Neoclassical Boiserie panels from the circular salon of the Hôtel de Montmorency. Look out for future blogs on other objects in the room.

The eight large panels were designed by one of my favorite French Neoclassical architects Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, French, 1736–1806 and date from around 1770. The Boiserie was beautifully carved by master carver Joseph Méthivier. The panels are carved out of oak a very difficult wood to carve and painted in white milk paint & gilded with gold leaf. The detail carvings are bold and exemplifies the neoclassical style of decoration fashionable in France by the early 1770's. Depicting goddesses of arts and creative inspiration, cherubs supporting perfume burners and ewers based on ancient Greek & Roman prototypes. While above are exquisite suspended trophies of musical instruments, hunting spoils and architect's tools- symbolic of the artistic and athletic pursuits of the patron.

Sadly much of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux work was destroyed in the nineteenth century. During the first half of the 19th century entire districts of Paris were demolished ' clearing out narrow, winding medieval streets along with great masterpieces of architecture to create the network of wide avenues and neo-classical façades that still make much of modern Paris. Boston collector Peter Parker acquired the panels in Paris in 1848. Shortly after the demolition of the Hôtel de Montmorency. Peter Parker built in the 1850's a mansion called Deacon House, on Beacon Hill in Boston for his daughter Sarahann and his son-in-law Edward Preble Deacon . The Boiserie and a pair of large François Boucher paintings, "Halt at the Spring" 1765 & "Return from Market" 1767 hung in the Deacon house until 1871. They are now all housed in the Boston Museum of art.



1 comment:

  1. See, Andrew, you've got me so accustomed to your decorating your Mobile house, that I thought this was another of your rooms. I also see that you think like me...two or three hours in a particular museum is not enough. It takes days to absorb it all.