National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Love Letter François Boucher (artist)
French, 1703 - 1770
The Love Letter, 1750
oil on canvas
overall: 81.2 x 75.2 cm (31 15/16 x 29 5/8 in.)
Timken Collection
On View
From the Tour: 18th-Century France — The Rococo and Watteau
Object 6 of 9


Painted for Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour [1721-1764], and installed in the chambre doré on the first [i.e., second] floor of the Château de Bellevue, outside Paris; removed c. 1757; recorded 1764 in the vestibule of the ground floor of the Hôtel d'Evreux, Pompadour's Parisian residence; by inheritance to her brother, Abel François Poisson, marquis de Ménars et de Marigny [1727-1781], Château de Ménars, Paris; (his estate sale, at his residence by Basan and Joullain, Paris, 18 March-6 April 1782 [postponed from late February], no. 17). (sale, Hôtel des Commissaires-Priseurs, Paris, 14-15 March 1842, no. 15). (anonymous sale ["Provenant du Cabinet de M. X***], Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 26 April 1861, no. 2). Emile [1800-1875] and Isaac [1806-1880] Pereire, Paris; (Péreire sale, at their residence by Pillet and Petit, Paris, 6-9 March 1872, no. 57, as Le Mouton chéri or Le messager); purchased by Sommier, possibly for Frédéric-Alexis-Louis Pillet-Will, comte Pillet [1837-1911], Paris.[1] (Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Paris, New York, and London); sold to William R. Timken [1866-1949], New York, by 1932;[2] by inheritance to his widow, Lillian Guyer Timken [1881-1959], New York; bequest 1960 to NGA.

[1] Alexandre Ananoff, with Daniel Wildenstein, François Boucher, 2 vols., Lausanne and Paris, 1976: 2:66, no. 364, list the painting as being in the collection of comte Pillet Will "c. 1906" (his name is more correctly comte Pillet, although the surname was Pillet-Will). However, the comte purchased other paintings at the Péreire sale, including Fragonard's A Game of Horse and Rider (NGA 1946.7.5), so it is possible he purchased this Boucher through Sommier at the same time.

[2] The Timkens lent the painting to a 1932 exhibition in London. Correspondence in the Duveen Brothers Records indicates that the Timkens were considering, reluctantly, selling the painting in 1937 (Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, accession number 960015, reel 235, box 380, folder 4; copies in NGA curatorial files).

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