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Portrait of Mrs. Bouche

Bouche __Attributed to
Date Made:
paint on canvas
HOA: 30″; WOA: 25″
Accession Number:
SITTER: The identity of the woman depicted in this portrait is unknown but the inscription on the urn, which includes the name “H. Bouch,” suggests that she may have been the wife of the artist Bouche. A strong candidate is a woman named Heli Boucher, who was born in Bourdeaux, France, emigrated to Saint-Domingue, and died in Baltimore on 31 May 1793 (cited in Baltimore Catholic Burial Records, Maryland Historical Society). If Heli Boucher was the wife of the artist Bouche, the inscription on the urn suggests the painting was a memorial portrait completed after he death. Alternatively, the portrait miniature shown in her lap could be that of a departed child who is memorialized in the urn.

ARTIST: The enigmatic artist Bouche, whose first name is still a mystery, was probably a refugee of the French Revolution. The 7 November 1795 “Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser” included an announcement that a Messr. Bouche was proposing a drawing academy with a Messr. de Valdenuit. A year later the same newspaper included a notice that Bouche, identified as a “Peintre,” had received a French letter at the post office (see also MESDA Craftsman Database, Craftsman ID 3344). The 1800 Baltimore property tax list included a gentleman named Lambert Bouchu, possibly the artist. The According to the Frick Art Reference Library only about a dozen pictures by Bouche are known; most are miniatures or graphite sketches. The artist’s surviving pictures suggest that he worked in addition to Baltimore he worked in the Maryland city of Annapolis.

DESCRIPTION: Portrait of a woman three-quarter pose, facing left; dark hair, blue empire/high waisted dress with lace around the neckline and sleeves. She is seated in a red upholstered armchair. Left elbow resting and arm of a chair and face resting on right hand. An miniature portrait rests open on her right hip. To the viewer’s left of the sitter is an urn with an inscription: “H. Bouch[e] / HEAVEN / Has in Store / What thou has / LOST.”

Credit Line:
Gift of Robert Gallup Shannahan