St John the Baptist in the Desert
Towards the end of his life, Boucher moved away from the exuberance and preciousness of the Rococo period and turned to Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro and introspection for a means to dramatise his subjects. Here, St John the Baptist’s body is modelled by the light, in a scene that looks more like a vision than a prayer. The transition from dark shadows highlighted with pastel towards luminous whites, hints at the saint’s solitude and introspection. The artist takes the character’s pose and the powerful shafts of light penetrating the forest behind him, from a painting in Padua on the same subject, which was thought, in the 18th century, to be by Rubens. The introspective nature of this scene makes this drawing an unusual work in Boucher’s oeuvre.