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)
Private Collection, Paris
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The Birth and Triumph of Venus
François Boucher (French, 1703 - 1770)
Black chalk and gouache
39 × 31 cm (15 3/8 × 12 3/16 in.)
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.