Jean-Baptiste OUDRY (Paris 1686 - Beauvais 1755)
The Annunciation Sold
Pen and brown ink and brown wash, extensively heightened with white and yellow gouache, on buff paper.
Framing lines in brown ink.
Numbered and inscribed 2810 / 313. / Oudrÿ on the verso.
208 x 160 mm. (8 1/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
An early drawing by the artist, the present sheet is very likely to have come from Oudry’s so-called 'livre de raison'; two albums of wash drawings, begun by the artist in June 1713, which recorded the compositions of all of his finished paintings, as well as many ideas for unexecuted works, over the next five or six years, until around 1718 or 1719. An indispensable record of Oudry’s activity during his earliest years as an independent artist, before his admittance into the Académie, the 'livre de raison' as it survives today is, unfortunately, largely incomplete. More than half of the contents of the two albums, including the present sheet, were removed and sold by the printmaker and publisher Gabriel Huquier, who owned the 'livre de raison' albums after Oudry’s death, long before the remainder were eventually acquired by the Louvre in 1957. The wash drawings of the 'livre de raison' are characterized by a free and colouristic draughtsmanship, with a wide ink border and an extensive inscription by the artist in the lower margin identifying the subject or sitter, date and size of the related painting. (Many of the loose drawings thought to have come from the two albums, however, have had their inscriptions and borders trimmed away.) Oudry is known to have painted only a handful of paintings of religious subjects, all in the earliest years of his career, and almost none of these survives. The present sheet may therefore record a lost, or perhaps never-executed, painting.
Two stylistically comparable early drawings of religious subjects by Oudry, both also from the 'livre de raison', are an Adoration of the Magi in the Courtauld Gallery in London, which is a study for an altarpiece of c.1717 in the church of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, near Paris, and a drawing of The Judgement of Solomon in the Louvre, for which no related painting is known. The Courtauld and Louvre drawings, as well as the present sheet, were among just seven drawings of religious subjects, out of a total of some eighty sheets, that were removed by Huquier from Oudry’s 'livre de raison' albums within a few years of the artist’s death and sold at auction in 1761.
The eminent 18th century French printmaker, publisher, art dealer and collector Gabriel Huquier (1695-1772) assembled one of the largest collections of Oudry’s drawings and published several series of prints after them.
Gabriel Huquier, Paris
His sale (‘Catalogue d’un magnifique Cabinet de desseins…Par un fameux Connoisseur & Amateur, Monsieur ***’), Amsterdam, Pierre Yver, 14-26 September 1761, part of lot 2810 (‘Une Anonciation, dessinée de même [Jean-Baptiste Oudry] & par le même.’, bt. Gool for 1 fl.,10 s)
Anonymous sale (‘Collection de Monsieur X…’), Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 1-2 March 1983, lot 151
Yvonne Tan Bunzl, London
Hal N. Opperman, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, unpublished Ph.D dissertation, University of Chicago, 1972; published New York and London, 1977, Vol.I, p.32, note 1, p.243; Vol.II, p.662, no.D166 (as present whereabouts unknown); Hal Opperman, J.-B. Oudry 1686-1755, exhibition catalogue, Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 1983, p.95, under no.4; Louis-Antoine Prat, Le dessin français au XVIIIesiècle, Paris, 2017, p.357.