The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Birth and Triumph of Venus

Object Details


The Birth and Triumph of Venus


François Boucher (French, 1703 - 1770)




about 1743


Black chalk and gouache

Object Number:



39 × 31 cm (15 3/8 × 12 3/16 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

Surrounded by admirers, a recumbent Venus clasps a white dove to her body. At her feet, a pair of naiads, or water nymphs, presents red coral and other sea treasures to the goddess of love. Two tritons, semi-human sea dwellers, vigorously vie for Venus's attention. One triton blows on his shell-trumpet while the other, wedged between his partner and a fantastical dolphin, empties water out of his horn. In both sea and sky, putti pay tribute to the goddess. Amid all this attention, Venus remains impassive, decidedly detached from the churning sea.

François Boucher's immense popularity in eighteenth-century Europe was matched by his versatility; he created everything from cabinet paintings to tapestry and stage designs. But this drawing is one of only three known gouaches by Boucher. In this work, the painter loosely applied the media--his handling varying from the expressive, almost chaotic, energy of the sea to the delicate, linear touch applied to Venus and her female attendants. Given its large size and ambitious composition, the gouache was probably created as an independent work of art and not as a study for a painting. Boucher frequently depicted this goddess, and the gouache bears a striking resemblance to his Venus on the Waves, a later oil painting also in the Getty's collection.

by 1750

Nicolas Vennevault, French, 1697 - 1775, (his sale, Paris, March 26, 1776, lot 19)


Pierre-François Basan, French, 1723 - 1798, (his sale, Paris, December 1, 1798, lot 74)

by 1832
Salon of 1745 (1745) (Addition, no. 173 ("Une esquisse à gouache, représenatnat Vénus sur les eaux."))
  • Salon, Palais du Louvre (Paris), 1745
Ten Years of Drawings: What, How, and Why (January 29 to May 4, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 29 to May 4, 2008
Gods and Heroes: European Drawings of Classical Mythology (November 19, 2013 to February 9, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 19, 2013 to February 9, 2014