French painting

Vénus asleep / The Toilet of Venus

François Boucher
Paris, 1703 - Paris, 1770

Circa 1760, oil on canvas, 143 x 96 cm
Picture Gallery

 

François Boucher, the favourite painter of Louis XV, is often associated with the Rococo style and licentious painting. With his work for the royals, he was above all a painter-decorator. He illustrates mythological stories with romantic allusions.
In these two oval paintings, originally designed as overdoors, François Boucher portrayed two episodes in the life of Venus: “Venus Asleep” and “The Toilet”. The goddess of love was one of the painter’s favourite subjects. For him, it was an occasion to show the sensual figure of a radiant beautiful young woman.
In these two paintings, the goddess’ pose is perfectly suited to the oval frame: her exceedingly lithe body follows the curve.

In “Venus Asleep”, the goddess rests on a pile of creased fabric, from which a column emerges. A funny little detail: Venus is holding her pearl necklace, whereas she was first portrayed armed with two arrows. They can still be easily distinguished on the painting.
The tray filled with jewellery expresses Boucher’s taste for precious objects.

In “The Toilet”, Venus appears to be floating on a sea of clouds that stand out against a pearly sky. Her arms make a very gracious slight gesture, while her eyes lower to a peacock. On the left a mirror with a gilt and scribed frame is emerging, evoking the rocaille style that was popular during the reign of Louis XV, marked by the personality of Madame de Pompadour, of whom Boucher was the protégé.

Accompanying Venus are cupids, chubby and slightly impertinent babies, who, by their relations with the goddess, evoke that atmosphere of romantic mythology and joie de vivre that characterised 18th century France, and the works of Boucher in particular.

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