The Sorrows of Love, by Louis-Léopold Boilly

Boilly, during his long and life and career, was the unparalleled witness of everyday life in France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I used several of his paintings as direct inspirations for scenes of my second novel, For the King. I love his down-to-earth style, his sense of observation and humor. And of course I would have been delighted to have a detail of one of his paintings on the cover (see covers 4 and 5 here.)

Boilly also painted sentimental genre scenes, like The Sorrows of Love, displayed at The Wallace Collection. See the contrast between the distraught look of the heroine and her happy countenance on her just returned portrait. Also the attitudes of the servants, sympathetic but wary of offering comfort. The frightened little dog hiding behind the guitar, the abandoned knitting (yes, you need four needles to knit a stocking, trust Boilly for this kind of detail.)

When I look at this painting, I always think of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, in particular the scene where Marianne has just received back from Willoughby the tokens of her love, so imprudently bestowed, and her sister Elinor tries her best to soothe her. Of course this was painted in 1790, twenty years before the novel was published, and yet I cannot help associating the two.

Boilly Sorrows of Love

Boilly the Sorrows of Love Wallace Collection

Print Friendly