A youth with a flute gazes languidly at his companionwhile another youth offers a shell full of fresh water to a dainty maiden in a diaphanous gown of purple-gold and red satin. A rosy-cheeked, barefoot woman dressed in red silk looks longingly at the man with the flute. Suitors woo and babies frolic in an idyllic setting of lush, green, leafy trees under a pale blue sky with gray-pink clouds.
By blending sensuality, covert eroticism, and refinement, pastoral paintings such as these brought the world of aristocratic society and amorous games to the countryside. The pastoral genre in which François Boucher excelled delighted his patrons, answering the contemporary nostalgia for nature and excluding coarse reality.
The Fountain of Love,dated 1748, originally served as a finished cartoon for a tapestry, one of a series of six known as the Noble Pastorales. Beginning in 1755, the Beauvais tapestry manufactory wove the tapestries directly over the cartoons. Eventually, the cartoons were cut up into sections and sold separately. The tapestries remain, showing scholars how large the cartoons were and what is missing from them now.