Catalogue entry: The village of Charenton, at the meeting of the Seine and Marne rivers, was a favorite location in the eighteenth century for excursions from Paris. Although the building in this painting is possibly a fanciful invention of François Boucher—mills did not typically feature expensive glass windows and decorative swags of greenery—it would have been recognizable as one of the many picturesque mills in the Charenton area. Emphasizing the mill's verticality, tall trees contain the view and frame the mill itself, while four thin supporting poles carry our eyes to the sunlit upper floor of the structure. The painting is filled with a sense of the fruitfulness of the earth; trees covered with foliage, the rushing stream banked with bushes, and a multitude of white doves flying around the mill. Sparkling white highlights on the foliage, the mill, and the bridge enliven the lush summer scene. The inhabitants of this idyllic world are healthy, handsome, and—like the figures in Fragonard's Blind-Man's Buff (see 1954.43), immaculately dressed for peasants. Boucher made drawings for each of them, and reused some of the poses in other paintings. At the right, a woman washes her clothes while a companion lounges elegantly beside her. A fisherman moors his boat filled with nets, prompting one agitated duck to honk angrily. Across the stream, women look out of the mill's open window and door and a child leans over the bridge, his small dog beside him. When Boucher painted The Mill at Charenton, he had been working for Louis XV (ruled 1715-1774) and his mistress Madame de Pompadour for thirty-two years. He had been appointed director of the Gobelins tapestry manufactory and in a few years was to be named "first painter" to the king.
Rights: Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey