François Boucher
Venus and Cupid

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas, 1751
    • National Gallery of Art
      Washington DC

This is another panel from the "bathroom" series commissioned by Madam de Pompadour in 1751. Like The Toilette of Venus, the subject matter is the goddess of love, an appropriate theme for the King's mistress's bathroom. The particular theme of this painting is a playful treatment of a popular theme: Venus disciplining her son Cupid. According to the legends, Cupid has a bow and arrow with which he can shoot humans and make them fall in love. Cupid is a gleeful youngster and loves to use his arrows, often in mischevous and even harmful ways. So his mother, as the goddess of love, frequently had to discipline him. She is shown here taking away his quiver of arrows, much to the enjoyment of the other putti, winged creatures like Cupid, but lacking his ability to force people into love.

Venus herself is painted with Boucher's mastery of flesh and knowledge of the power of revealing drappery. As with all his paintings, however, the goddess is transformed into a rather ordinary looking woman. Yes, she is beautiful, but lacks the sublime attributes which formerly artists used to portray her.

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