François Boucher
The Companions of Diana

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas, 1745
    • 46 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches
    • San Francisco Museum of Art

Central to Western art since the renaissance had been subjects taken from classical antiquity. Stories of the adventures and fate of Greek gods and goddesses were extremely popular, and in the baroque age they were treated in grandiose style. Here Boucher shows the, naturally female, companions of Diana, goddess of the moon and the hunt. They are provocatively posed, but without any attempt to touch the heart. It is a kind of witty eroticism, titilating but without meaning.

But there is a more prosaic explanation for Boucher's selection both of the subject matter and its treatment. In this age of enlightenment, with its often obsessive emphasis upon wit and yet with a conservative honoring of social conventions and artistic traditions, painters were increasingly called upon to make their art fit into smaller private rooms, in the light-hearted atmospher of rural chalets, hunting lodges, miniature pleasure palaces for aristocratic leisure. The subject of Diana, queen of the hunt, was a natural in such settings, and paintings such as this were designed to be just decorative. Hence the absence of "heavy" colors and treatment. Here are two charming young girls exhausted after a romp through the woods. True they have weapons, but their soft natures probably prevented them from ever killing any creatures, for none are present in this picture at all.

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