The Pulpit of the Cathedral of Saint-André in Bordeaux

Giovanni Boldini, Italian, 1842 - 1931


Transparent and opaque watercolor, with black chalk, on heavy wove paper

Sheet: 19 5/8 x 19 5/8 inches (49.8 x 49.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with additional funds from the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1993

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Boldini was a society painter who was trained in Florence but worked mainly in London and Paris. His bravura style and facility with a likeness established his reputation in portraiture. The pulpit that is the subject of this "portrait" is itself a work of art, made by an eighteenth-century Bordeaux craftsman of carved mahogany with inset panels of red marble.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This watercolor, evidently done on the spot as a spontaneous record, is a variant of another watercolor of the same subject by Giovanni Boldini now in a private collection (sale, Sotheby’s, London, 1 December 1965, lot 3, repro.). This other watercolor is made from a slightly different vantage point, looking west toward the rose window of the church with a welter of chairs in disarray in the foreground. The pulpit itself is featured more conspicuously in the Philadelphia watercolor and was obviously the focus of Boldini’s interest in this work. The original pulpit of the cathedral was destroyed in the French Revolution and was replaced by the one seen here, transferred to the cathedral from the church of Saint-Rémy. The pulpit was itself a work of art, made by the eighteenth-century Bordeaux craftsman Barthélémy Cabirol (1737 - 1786) and constructed of carved mahogany with inset panels of red marble. It is tempting to locate the source of Boldini’s fascination with this bit of church furnishing in a characteristic it shares with the artist’s own work, which can best be described as “flashy.” Boldini made other watercolors of architectural details in the church, including a striking one of a stained-glass window (Buzzoni, Andrea, ed., with Marcello Toffanello. Museo Giovanni Boldini: catalogo generale completement illustrato. Ferrara: Civiche Gallerie d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, 1997, p. 152, no. 1410). He was enormously prolific and evidently produced in great haste, losing interest as soon as he had accomplished his initial goal. This drawing is an example: any plans that the artist may have had for the lower right corner were settled with a smear of chalk and wash, leaving the viewer to speculate uneasily on the architectural principle that keeps the pulpit upright. Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 72.

    P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., New York, Paris, and London. An Exhibition of Master Drawings. New York, 5 - 22 May 1993; Paris, 9 - 19 June 1993; London, 30 June - 9 July 1993. Catalogue by Stephen Ongpin. New York: Colnaghi USA, 1993, no. 57, repro.