Still-life with chocolate service; Still-life with coffee service

Still-life with chocolate service; Still-life with coffee service



André Bouys was a painter of repute who was best known as a portraitist and mezzotint engraver but also produced genre scenes and still-life works. He belonged to the group of French artists influenced by the Dutch Golden Age and excelled in depicting bourgeois motifs with serving girls engaged in domestic duties in wealthy town houses, a subject matter that was continued by such eminent painters as Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) and Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699-1779).

He was born in Foubes, near Hyères in the Var region of France in 1656 and it is believed that he was given some instruction by the Aix amateur painter Jean Baptiste Boyer d'Aguille. His talent gained him a place, aged only eleven, in the Paris studio of Francois de Troy (1645-1730) who was principal painter to the exiled James II of England and father and teacher of his son Jean François de Troy (1659-1752) who became one of France's leading history and portrait painters. Bouys's initial work in de Troy's studio was engraving his master's work and that of the studio but he graduated to painting in oils and displayed a remarkable ability, even at a very young age, to imitate very closely the work of his fellow pupils.

De Troy obviously held his young pupil in high regard as when the former produced a self-portrait holding a brush and palette, his young protégé made the engraving. This helped in affirming his growing reputation and on 26th April 1687 he put himself up for membership of l'Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which had been founded in 1648 by Louis XIV and was the premier art institution in France at that time. His application read: "Le sieur André Bouis, natif de Provence, peintre en portraits, s'est présenté pur être reçu Académicien et a fait voir de ses ouvrages à La Compagnie qui, agréant sa présentation, après avoir pris les voix par le fèves, lui a ordonné de faire, pour son ouvrage de réception, les portraits de Monsieur le Hongre, Adjoint Recteur, et Monsieur de la Fosse, Professeur, pour quoi faire il lui a été donné sis moins de temps"

His submission was well received and a few days later, on 3rd May 1687, he was accepted. He presented the completed de la Fosse portrait eighteen months later and in view of his pecuniary situation was awarded 100 livres. However the le Hongre was not ready much to the impatience of L'Académie who reminded him of the terms of his acceptance. Bouys cited the illness of the sculptor which had prevented him from completing the commission. The situation did not improve following the death of the sitter three months later and there were doubts as to whether he had even started. L'Académie members threatened him further but a further eighteen months was to elapse before the work was completed and its presentation.

Bouys exhibited nine paintings at Le Salon in 1699 and of particular interest was his portrayal of the poet Nicolas Boileau-Desspreaux which preceded that by Hyançinthe Rigaud.
He painted and engraved many influential figures of the time including musicians, fellow artists, senior churchmen and members of the aristocracy. One of his best known paintings is of the composer and master viola da gamba player Marin Marais which shows him with a group of fellow musicians in an interior. This painting, completed in 1704, can be seen in La Musée de la Musique in Paris. He also rendered François de Troy, Jean Baptiste Massillon, the Bishop of Clermont, the Marquis de Bellay, the painters Claude Gros and Charles de la Fosse and a self-portrait together with his wife.

This marriage portrait, now at Versailles, shows a happy couple and with and its intimacy and free style, evident in the poses and clothes worn which was so much at variance from the formal portraits of the time, clearly shows that it is for personal viewing. He had married the nineteen year old Marie-Anne Rousseau in 1708. She was the daughter of a wine merchant whose forbears included the painter Antoine Rousseau and the couple resided in rue Coquillière in Paris. Their first child Claude-Jacques was born on 7th October 1708 and their second, Claude-Andre on 4th January 1711.

Between 1715 and 1732 Bouys assisted regularly with the meetings of L'Académie Royale and gave judgements at the verbal proceedings of the Assembly in his position as a Conseiller - to which he had been appointed on 2nd July 1707- and his presence was much appreciated. His influence in society was further augmented by his position as a notary, mainly for the professional classes, drawing up leases and marriage contracts. This was also financially advantageous to him and it seems that Bouys took a lot of care over the management of his assets and finances.

He fell ill in 1732 but following his recovery and aged seventy-six, he took up his palette and brushes with a renewed vigour and a change of style. This resulted in a return to single portrait subjects and with close attention given to the figures, free from the strict academic rules while remaining true to realistic traditions. His entry to Le Salon, Servante qui recure de la vaisselle d'argent was significant as the naturalistic charming portrayal of the serving girl does not arrest the viewers gaze much more than the silver objects on which she is working. This genre scene, and others like it such as La Ménagère, where servants are shown cleaning silver objects or elegant figures are surrounded by fine objects, marks a preliminary step in a style of painting which evolved over the next half-century.

In 1737, it was noted that two still-life paintings were hanging on the stairs in at l'Académie. These were by André Bouys and were distinctive in that, devoid of any figures, they displayed groupings of objects which remarkable renditions of the goldsmith's craft, folds of linen, silver ewers, boxes of spices, bowls of sugar, glasses, roses and superb depiction of the lustre on oyster shells. High quality, fashionable pieces, even if comparatively utilitarian, defined status and were indicative of somebody's wealth and standing. Finely crafted silver pots, plates and jugs or the best porcelain from China were highly prized among the burgeoning merchant classes and were no longer solely the preserve of the aristocracy.

His still life paintings can be seen as an adjunct to Bouys's depictions of these elegantly placed objects and were later echoed across Europe in the works of the Swiss Jean Étienne Liotard (1702-1789) with the National Gallery's A lady pouring chocolate painted in 1744, the Spanish Luis Melendez (1716-1780) with Still-life of a chocolate service, now in the Prado, and the French painters Jean-Baptiste Mallet (La Jolie Visiteuse in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Robert Bonnard's Un Cavalier et une dame beauvant du chocolat in the Pierpoint Library in New York as well as works by the aforementioned Chardin and Greuze.

He died in Paris on 18th May 1740. Examples of his work can be seen in the collections of the following institutions: National Gallery, London; La Musée des Art Décoratifs, Musée de la Musique in Paris; La Musée de Versailles; Musée Fragonard, Grasse; Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; Portland Art Museum.

La Vie Silençieuse en France; La Nature Morte au XVIIIe Siècle - Michel et Fabrice Faré
Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789 - Michael Levey
Dictionnaire des Peintres - E Benezit
Portraits et auto-portraits d'artistes au XVIII siècle - Philippe Renard
Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart - Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker

Cocoa beans and the equipment necessary to produce a liquid from them were first introduced to Europe by Cortes in 1528 when he returned to Spain defeating the Aztec king Montezuma. Initially it was tried as the Mayan inventors had made the drink where it was a bitter concoction and was slow to gain popularity. However the Spanish court of Charles V experimented with various additions and it came to be seen as a fashionable drink in that circle but with the marriage of Anne of Austria, Philip III of Spain's eldest daughter, marriage to Louis XIII, further consolidated by the marriage of Maria Theresa to cousin Louis XIV in 1660, the taste for it started to expand across Europe. It was still a very expensive drink as the only source was Spanish controlled central and south America; indeed it was so valuable that it was even utilised as a dowry between members of the European royal families.

The earliest date of its arrival in England was given as 1652 and by 1657 London's first dedicated chocolate house had been opened by a Frenchman who posted an advertisement in the Publick Advertiser of Tuesday, June 16-22, 1657 which read: "In Bishopsgate Street in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent West India drink called chocolate, to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade at reasonable rates." Samuel Pepys made several references to the drink in his diaries: "Waked in the morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night's drink, which I am very sorry for; so rose and went out with Mr Creed to drink our morning draft, which he did give me in chocolate to settle my stomach"(1661 the day after Charles II's coronation) and: "… went to Mr. Blands and there drinking my morning draught in good chocolate, and slabbering my band sent home for another." (3rd May, 1664). Although the price had come down from the 16th century it was still a luxury drink and could only be enjoyed by the wealthy and it was often blended with herbs and spices such as jasmine, vanilla, anise, cinnamon and pepper as well as honey which was eventually replaced with sugar.

Chocolate at that time was usually taken as a hot drink and has been described as: "…of a dusky colour, soft, and oily; usually drank hot, and esteemed not only an excellent food, as being very nourishing, but also a good medicine; at least a diet, for keeping up the warmth of the stomach, and assisting digestion." The process of making it entailed boiling the mixture and then stirring it constantly otherwise the thick liquid, which contained most of the flavour, would separate and form a sediment at the bottom. This was essential even when the boiling process was over and the pot was in use during the serving. To obviate the need to constantly remove the pot lid to stir the liquid, the French came up with the idea of having a small hinged aperture at the top under the swiveling finial which allowed a stirring rod to be inserted, thus not only saving time but also retaining more heat. This rod could be made of silver or wood or occasionally a mix of both and was held between the palms of both hands and agitated backwards and forwards. In France this device was known as un moussoir but the English gave it the name molinet which actually was a derivation of the French word moulin and meant little mill. When one considers a coffee pot and a chocolate pot of that period together, they are virtually indistinguishable and both were generally taller than tea pots. To be a chocolate pot it had to have the aperture under the hinged finial or sometimes there would be a sliding cover in the lid. The chocolate mixture was prepared in large quantities, generally in vessels of brass or copper, before the requisite amount was transferred to the pot. The most prestigious pots were made of silver and these were the type more commonly used in a domestic environment but as its popularity spread and became more accessible and it was available at places of entertainment and in coffee houses, then a base metal or ceramic might be utilised. The purveyors of chocolate were also the vendors of tea, coffee, sugar and exotic spices which were all coming in from the new European colonies and Italian chocolate could be purchased with sugar already added.

In a private home, although it could be consumed at any time of day, the morning was the more common time to enjoy it for the fashionable moneyed classes. The mixture would be poured from the pot either into small tea cups but ideally into special chocolate cups which were of ceramic and imported and being without handles, were more like small beakers. A publication from 1675 by John Worlidge instructs: "…boil in water and sugar; others mix half water and half milk and boil it, then add powdered chocolate to it and boil them together; others add wine and water. Be sure, whilst it is boiling, to keep it stirring, and when it is off the fire, whir it with your hand mill. That is, it must be mixed in a deep pot of Tin, copper or stone with a cover with a hole in the middle of it, for the handle of the mill to come out at, or without a cover. The mill is only a knop at the end of slender handle or stick, turned in a turner's lathe, and cut in notches, or rough at the end. They are sold at turners for that purpose. This being whirled between your hands, whilst the pot is over the fire, and the rough end in the liquor causes an equal mixture of the liquor with the chocolate and raises a head of froth over it. Then pour it out for use in small dishes for that purpose. You must add a convenient quantity of sugar to the mixture."

Apart from the exotic taste, initially it was thought also that it had health giving qualities and was also considered to be an aphrodisiac. A verse from 1652 insists that: "…Twill make old women Young and Fresh; / Create new notions of the flesh / And cause them long for you know what, / If they but taste of chocolate." 18th century paintings set in a ladies boudoir with languid lovers sometimes had the accoutrements of chocolate drinking by the bed and one good example of this is La Crainte by Jean-Baptiste Leprince. However, as with tea, the extra benefits of the drink soon ceased to be considered and it came to be appreciated solely as an expensive, fashionable and pleasurable drink.


Height 60 cm / 23 34"
Width 75.7 cm / 30"
Framed height 74.3 cm / 29 12"
Framed width 94.2 cm / 37 14"

1656 - 1740


Oil on canvas, a pair