François Boucher
The Clogs

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    • Oil on Canvas 1768
    • 25 3/16 x 12 1/8 inches
    • Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

This is an excellent example of the Pastoral in which Boucher exceled. His earlier precise brushwork and meticulous rendering of objects gave way in many of these to a much broader handling. This is a quintessential rococo painting, marked by rich fluid paint, resonant color combinations, and curving and serpentine lines that echo the oval format, itself a hallmark of the style. And the subject matter, two lovers feeding each other cherries, is certainly a form of erotic entertainment.

The actual scene depicted is from a comic opera by Cazotte and Sedaine which was first performed in 1768, the year this picture was made. In it Babet has been caught stealing cherries by the landlord, and when she refuses his demand for a kiss, he takes her clogs away. Then her lover Colin appears and the two play a lovers' game alternately feeding each other cherries. Colin will then give his clogs to Babet so that she may go off and recover her own.

It is interesting to note that both the source of the story, the comic opera, and the painting itself are here taking their last breadth. Soon both will be replaced by new forms. The operetta by the more serious type of bourgeois drama, and Boucher's pastorals by an artist representing a dramatically new direction in genre painting, Jean-Baptiste Greuze. But this fact in no way detracts from the loveliness of this painting by the elderly Boucher.

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