Recueil de Grimaces

The Most Popular Series of Prints in Restoration France
One of the Scarcest Series of Prints Anywhere, Anytime, By Anyone

BOILLY, L[ouis-Léopold]. Recueil de Grimaces. Paris: chez Delpech, n.d. [1823 and 1827].

First edition, first issue. Folio (14 1/4 x 10 5/8 in; 362 x 270 mm). Printed title leaf and nine hand-colored chalk lithographed plates, nos. 1-8 with no. 80 (dated on plate 1827)). Each lithograph depicts a group of five heads, each head distorted with exaggerated facial expressions. Housed in a felt-lined three-quarter black morocco clamshell case.

OCLC records only one copy worldwide of Recueil de Grimaces as issued here, prints 1-8 w/title leaf, at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. According to OCLC, the BNF has the only other copy of Recueil... in the world, one with ninety-three prints. Individual prints, however, are found in the collections of major institutions in the United States and Europe.

According to ABPC, the last copy of Recueil de Grimaces to come to auction was in 1949

"Today, at least outside France, Boilly is best known for his lithographs. Although credited with having drawn the first lithograph in France in 1802, he did not return to the medium until 1822, when he more or less abondoned oil painting. The caricatural aspects of his lithographic work go back to the English caricaturists Cruikshank, Gillray, and Rowlandson and the earlier innovations of Hogarth. His most popular series of lithographs, Recueil de Grimaces, was published between 1823 and 1828...The vignetted subjects of these prints appear to be cut out and applied to a plain background, a format also used by Pigal during the Restoration. The series was so popular that Philipon's printer Aubert re-published it in 1837 under the new title Groupes physionomiques...

"The series Recueil de Grimaces, published over the course of five years, included ninety-six lithographs...Boilly's popularity during the Restoration was largely due to this series. The interest in expressive heads had precedent in France... During the late eighteenth century, physiognomy, the art of reading inner character by means of facial expressions, was popularized by engravings illustrating Lavater's well-known Essays on Physiognomy, which may well have influenced the format of Boilly's Recueil de Grimaces' (The Charged Image: French Lithographic Caricature).

The son of a wood-carver, Louis-Léopold Boilly lived in Douai until he was seventeen years of age, when he went to Arras to receive instruction in trompe-l'oeil painting at Domenica Doncre before moving to Paris in 1785. Between 1789 and 1791 he executed eight small scenes on moralizing and amorous subjects for the Avignon collector Esprit-Claude-François Calvet (1728–1810), including The Visit (1789; Saint-Omer, Musée Hôtel Sandelin). He exhibited at the Salon between 1791 and 1824 and received a gold medal at the Salon in 1804. These paintings thoroughly observed and reflected all aspects of urban life, its costumes and its habits, between the revolutionary period and the Restoration. In 1823, Boilly produced a series of humorous lithographies entitled Grimaces. In 1833, at a time when his popularity was declining, he was admitted to the Légion d’honneur and the Institut de France. His three sons, Julien Léopold (1796-1874), Édouard (1799-1854) and Alphonse Léopold (1801-1867), were also painters.

The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly, p. 122-123. Item #02380

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