(b. 1805, La Guillotière, d. 1873, Paris)
Paul and Virginia1844
Oil on canvas, 41 x 60 cm
Bernardin de St. Pierre's Paul et Virginie (first published in 1788) became an immediate bestseller and continued inspiring songs, poems, plays, ballets, operas, and pictures well into the nineteenth century. It is the sentimental story of two children of French parentage growing up on a tropical island, the Île de France (Mauritius), their love, separation, and untimely deaths. It appealed to the same readership that enjoyed historical romances and troubadour themes.
This painting is unusual in the context of literary paintings for the large proportion of canvas given over to landscape rather than figures. Blanchard clearly demonstrates his first hand experience of exotic tropical flora, and includes minutely observed species from palms to cacti to Spanish moss.