National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Bath of Venus François Boucher (artist)
French, 1703 - 1770
The Bath of Venus, 1751
oil on canvas
overall: 107 x 84.8 cm (42 1/8 x 33 3/8 in.) framed: 132.1 x 110.2 x 7.6 cm (52 x 43 3/8 x 3 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View
From the Tour: 18th-Century France — Boucher and Fragonard
Object 1 of 8

This painting belonged to Madame de Pompadour and, with a companion work, was probably part of the decoration at her quarters at Versailles or the chateau at Bellevue given her by the king.

Youthful and engaging, the goddess of love disarms Cupid of the arrows he uses to inflict desire. It has been suggested that Boucher's young wife, or even Madame de Pompadour, posed for Venus, but it is more likely that the goddess is simply an ideal of beauty, as soft and appealing as the luxurious silks that surround her. Boucher has used the mythological scene, not to tell a story of gods or heroes, but simply to capture the goddess with clear pastel tones and silvery light.

Artists sought commissions from Madame de Pompadour not only for the prestige of working for the king's mistress, but also because she paid her bills promptly. Others among the aristocracy were plagued with financial difficulties, "treading," one wrote, "on a bed of roses that covered an abyss."

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