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Portrait of the composer François-Adrien Boieldieu

Louis-Léopold Boilly

(1761 - 1845) | 905.1.1

Date : Circa 1800 | Medium : Oil on canvas

This elegant portrait shows one of the most famous French composers of the first half of the 19th century, François-Adrien Boieldieu (1775-1834), whose work is now almost totally overshadowed by the German and Italian composers of the following generations. However, his concertos for flute and harp and his opera La Dame Blanche are still well-known, and with good reason.

In 1800, Boieldieu was a young man of twenty-five crowned with success, and a very prominent figure in Paris society. In 1799 he had been appointed teacher of the new pianoforte class recently introduced at the Conservatoire de Paris. In addition, his operas Benowski and Le Calife de Bagdad had been triumphant successes. Boilly therefore executed the portrait of a genuine celebrity for the Salon of 1800. 'Citizen Boieldieu', to quote the Salon catalogue, wears the elegant, close-fitting garments of the Revolutionary period, but with less eccentricity than the "Incroyables" of the French Directory. He stands in front of a pianoforte, where an open score and inkstand suggest that he is in the middle of composing. On the shelf, a bust of Gluck pays the requisite tribute to the composer who reformed French opera in the second half of the 18th century.

Boilly's descriptive, meticulous style with its smooth, porcelain-like brushwork sometimes comes close to miniature painting, but here the sober layout, very reminiscent of David, lends the portrait a certain grandeur.