Portrait of Monsieur G. Giving his Daughter a Geography Lesson, 1812

Louis-Léopold Boilly, French

Arriving in Paris in 1785, Louis-Léopold Boilly witnessed the collapse of the French monarchy, the struggle for modern republicanism, and the rise and fall of Napoleon’s empire. Although he was denounced for the allegedly corrupt morality of his works in 1794—he had painted, perhaps, too many images of courtesans and gallant gentlemen—he survived the Revolution and went on to become a prolific portraitist and the most gifted genre painter in France during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

This portrait was shown in 1812 and in 1814 at the Paris Salon, the highly publicized, state-sponsored exhibition of contemporary art. Boilly titled the painting M[onsieur] G* * * giving his daughter a geography lesson; the sitter, whose identity remains unknown, was likely a Napoleonic administrator. Historical geography was promoted as a field of study for both boys and girls in Napoleonic France, whose maps were subject to frequent revision with each new conquest. Here the sphinx and pyramid in the cartouche of the map no doubt refer to Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition of 1798–1801; the globe shows Europe and Africa. The fine detail of the Geography Lesson is indebted to Dutch domestic genre paintings of the seventeenth century, many incorporating maps and books into middle-class homes. Boilly himself had a notable collection of works by Dutch masters such as Gerard Terborch and Gabriel Metsu.



Gaudry, Paris.

Acquired by Julien Bessonneau [1842-1916], Angers;

(Vente Bessonneau, Galerie Charpentier, 15 June 1954, no. 63).

(Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Ltd., London);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1990.