One of Boucher's earliest works, this impressive painting was an exciting rediscovery when it appeared on the market in the 1990's. Likely painted as early as 1720, when the artist was still a teenager, the painting is an ambitious and striking depiction of the two lovers, moments before they part. A native of Paris, the young Boucher entered François Lemoyne's studio in 1720 and won the Grand Prix in 1723, but did not leave for Italy until 1728. Venus and Adonis
was probably painted while the artist was still working under Lemoyne, and Boucher's handling of the paint and lively brushwork reflect that of his master. Indeed, the painting was previously attributed to Lemoyne.
Recounted most famously in Book X of Ovid's Metamorphoses
, the story of Venus and Adonis
was a favorite subject of many artists. Like Titian, Rubens and Poussin before him, Boucher chose to depict the moment of Adonis's departure, when Venus makes a futile attempt to keep him from the hunt which would end his life.
The traditional fellow to this work, The Judgement of Susannah
, is also a recent rediscovery, now in the National Gallery of Canada.2
It has a similar low, wide format to the present work, though is slightly smaller. The two paintings hung together in a private collection in France, apparently since the 18th century, though their dimensions and subjects make for a somewhat strange pairing, and thus they were probably not conceived as pendants by the artist but simply placed together since they were in the same collection. Colin Bailey dates The Judgement of Susannah
, which is signed, to 1722-23, just after Venus and Adonis
Both Colin Bailey and Alastair Laing agree that in the former work, Boucher has developed his own style in a much more confident manner; the present work, on the other hand, is still very much indebted to his master Lemoyne.
We are grateful to Colin B. Bailey and Alastair Laing for their assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.
1. See C. B. Bailey, under Literature, pp. 11-12.
2. 82.5 by 145.2 cm., see C. B. Bailey, under Literature, fig. 1, p. 12.