Masterpieces: The Four Seasons

François Boucher (1703-1770). The Four Seasons: Winter, 1755. Oil on canvas. 22⅜ × 28¾ in. The Frick Collection, New York, New York. Henry Clay Frick bequest. Accession No. 1916.1.15.

In place of the labors that traditionally illustrate the theme of the four seasons, Boucher depicts delightful amorous encounters in joyous colors. In Spring, a youth, set in an enchanting pastoral setting, adorns his lover’s hair with flowers. A group of voluptuous bathing nudes represents Summer. In Autumn, a young man offers a bunch of grapes to his fashionable beloved. Her little straw hat perches precariously on her head.

Perhaps the most beguiling of all is Winter, which reflects the eighteenth-century European fascination with Russia. The frosty background here is unusual for Boucher, vividly evoking the silence of a landscape buried under snow. A Tartar in pseudo-Russian dress pushes the heroine on an elaborate sleigh. Glancing out at us coyly, she sports a billowing fur-trimmed gown and a little fur necklace. Her hands may be warmed by a muff, but her upper body is completely exposed. This combination of luxury and seduction—all treated in a fanciful, even humorous manner—is typical of Boucher. – Audio Transcript from The Frick Collection, New York

Example of an “overdoor” at the Chateau de Menars, one of the properties owned by Madame de Pompadour, purchased in 1760

Boucher made these four paintings in 1755 for Madame De Pompadour, King Louis XV’s long-term official mistress. Their original location is unknown, but their peculiar shape suggests that they were used as overdoors, no doubt in one of Pompadour’s many properties in France.

Visit the Frick Collection

Long form articles:

Rethinking Boucher

Hyde, Melissa (edt); Ledbury, Mark (edt); Hyde, Melissa; Hyde & Ledbury, Hyde & Ledbury

Published by Getty Research Institute (2006)

ISBN 10: 089236825X ISBN 13: 9780892368259

Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress

Jones, Colin

Published by National Gallery Publications Ltd (2002)

ISBN 10: 185709977X ISBN 13: 9781857099775

Memoirs of Madame de Pompadour

Madame du Hausset

Published by Routledge, 1928

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