* artists illustrating boys fashions: Abraham Bosse

Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Abraham Bosse (French, 1602-72)

Figure 1.--This Bosse engraving shows 17th century French children. The child at left is a girl. The child at right is a boy, but has not yet been breeched. Note the leading strings on the dress of the boy in the center. I am not sure precisely when this engraving was done.

Bosse is the most noted French engraver of the 17th century. His body of work is astonishing, more than 1,500 prints, mostly genre pieces. They offer wonderful glimpses into 17th century life. Many children are depicted in the family scenes providing a great deal of detail on the clothinbg of 17th century French children. Quite a number of his prints are Biblical pieces, but Bosse has depicted them in contemprary 17th cenbtury dress. Bosse was a noted figure in the French artistic community. He was a leading figure at the Académie Royale beginning with its foundation in 1648. Bosse taught perspective. He was eventually expelled in a controversy with Le Brun in 1661. He wrote many books on engraving, painting, perspective, and architecture. He painted a few pieces, but is primarily known for his engravings.


This engraving by Abraham Bosse, "l'Enfance" (Childhood) shows 17th century French children. The child at left is a girl. The child at right is a boy, but has not yet been breeched. Note the leading strings on the dress of the boy in the center. It shows that leading strings were being used for todlers in the 17th century.

A reader writes, "This print is the first where I can obseerve a diffrence between leading strings. It is clear, as Philippe Aries wrote in his book that leadind strings are DIFFERENT from ribbons and that the actual reins come from leading strings and not from ribbons. When weaned out from leadind strings, the child kept his skirt and ribbons for longer as seen at right. This is also depicted by the Dutch artist Pieter De Hooch. As far as I know, it is not known if the child is a boy or a girl, but I think that the child is a boy because he is not buttoned at rear like a girl would be, but in front like boys. Many persons looking at toddlers on reins today, believe that it is a new fad. Prints like those of Bosse show the historical origins involved. There were a lot of complicated connections at the time between European countries. France's Cardinal Richelieu made an alliance with Netherlands and German Protestant princes against fellow Catholic Holy Roman Emperor. The French philosopher Descartes was working in the Netherlands."

HBC is not sure when this print was made, other than the 17th century. One HBC reader believes that it was done about 1636, but we do not yet have any confirmation of this. We are not sure when leading strings were first depicted, but it was much ealier. This may well be the first time that the date the print. Also while we note what could be ribbons extending from th child's shoulders, it is not clear to us if these are ribbons or a back flap. Here the image is not clear. It may be slender ribbons depicted, but it could also be a back flap rather like the back flap of a 19th century sailor middy blouse. While we do note that the older boy at right is not yet breeched, we see no indication that the boy is wearing ribbons at his shoulders. What we see are pleats in the baloon-like shoulders.


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Created: July 26, 2003
Last updated: July 26, 2003