The Wallace Collection

Miniatures by Jacques Charlier
Fig.2, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre, ‘Jupiter and Antiope’, Museo Nacional del Prado.
Fig.2, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre, ‘Jupiter and Antiope’, Museo Nacional del Prado.
Treasure of the Month - October 2010

Miniatures by Jacques Charlier

Miniature painting flourished in France during the eighteenth century. The Wallace Collection preserves one of the most important collections of miniatures from the period which have recently been put on display in the new Boudoir Cabinet.

The French miniature painter Jacques Charlier (1706-1790) is mainly known for his brilliant mythological and erotic scenes in the style of Boucher. He was avidly collected in the mid-nineteenth century, at the same time when major collectors became interested in Boucher. The 4th Marquess of Hertford assembled the most important group of works by Boucher in the world and also by far the largest group of works attributed to Charlier.

Jacques Charlier’s career as a miniature painters spans most of the eighteenth century. Although he worked for some of the most important patrons of his age, little is known about his life. His exact birth date has only recently been proven to be 1706 and nothing is known about his training. The sources mention him as a painter of portrait miniatures in the 1740s and 1750s but hardly any examples have been identified. In 1753 he became “Peintre en miniature du Roi”, although – like most miniature painters – he never was a member of the Academy in Paris. Charlier only signed very few of his works, and a stylistic chronology of his work has so far proven impossible to establish.

Most of the works traditionally connected with Charlier’s name are mythological and erotic scenes usually based on compositions by or in the style of François Boucher. What today is known of Charlier’s work refers to Boucher so often and so openly that some working arrangement between the two artists must be assumed. A good example is the miniature of the Muse Clio (M67) which closely copies a painting of the same subject by Boucher and his workshop here at the Wallace Collection in the Dining Room on the ground floor (P490). Some of Charlier’s works also copy works by Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre and old-master paintings. His “Jupiter and Antiope” (M62) follows Pierre’s painting at the Prado in Madrid (fig.2) with only minor changes.

Both cases reflect one of the main purposes of miniature painting. While we usually associate miniatures with portraiture, small-scale copies after well-known works by well-known artists were also popular and eagerly collected.

Gallery Talks

Tuesday 5 and Tuesday 26 October at 1pm with Christoph Vogtherr in the Boudoir Cabinet.

Further Reading

  • Stephen Duffy and Christoph Martin Vogtherr: Miniatures in the Wallace Collection, London 2010, (available from late October copies can be pre-ordered in the Shop)

© Trustees of the Wallace Collection 2010

Text by Christoph Vogtherr