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Cerès : Allégorie du mois d’Août

Louis de Boullogne

(1654 - 1733) | D.819.4

Date : Circa 1699 | Medium : Oil on canvas

In 1699, Louis XIV commissioned the best artists of the day to take on the prestigious task of decorating the grand salon of the royal pavilion at the Château de Marly, with the four seasons as the theme. Louis II de Boullogne was chosen for Summer, Charles de la Fosse for Autumn, Jean Jouvenet for Winter and Antoine Coypel for Spring.

At the turn of the century, work began to flood in for Louis II de Boullogne, including commissions to work on the decoration of the Château de Marly, the Château de Meudon and the Ménagerie.

At this time, after the deaths of Charles Le Brun and Pierre Mignard, official taste in France was beginning to change. Even Louis II de Boullogne, the main upholder of French Classicism, participated in the movement started in the 1680s by Charles de la Fosse and Gabriel Blanchard in the apartments of the King at the Château of Versailles.

The composition here is certainly influenced by the grand décor tradition of the 17th century. It involves an imposing allegorical figure bearing explicit symbols (the ear of corn, the sickle and the crown) surrounded by putti (or cherubs). The shape of the body, the sculptural design of the head of Ceres and the use of bold, clear colours are reminiscent of the style of the Bolognese School and that of Nicolas Poussin.

But the refined gestures, delicate flesh tones, fine folds of the fabric and subtle play of light and shade are also elements that give the painting a new freshness. This surprising combination of a very classical outline with the softness of the flesh helps to explain why it was formerly attributed to Jacques Blanchard, a French painter who was also staying in Rome and Venice at that time.