BOUCHER, François
(b. 1703, Paris, d. 1770, Paris)

Blond Odalisque (L'Odalisque Blonde)

Oil on canvas, 59 x 73 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The painting represents the portrait of Louise O'Murphy, a young Irish woman who worked as Boucher's model and who, in 1753, was briefly the mistress of Louis XV. The artist does not present her as a Venus of classical beauty but portrays her instead in a provocative pose of unambiguously erotic persuasion as a sweet child-woman.

In spite of the high esteem in which Boucher was held by the public of the day they frequently criticized the artificiality of his "porcelain heads" and his delicately coloured interiors. Here, too, his handling of colour is delicate in the extreme, creating a powdery surface with- out depth in which the hues are brought together by the use of white as a common ground. There are neither deep shadows nor sombre contrasts of light and shade. The white ground also takes the edge off the primary triad of red, yellow and blue, diluted here to discreet shades of pink, pale yellow and light blue. The unapproachable, aloof beauty is dethroned and a pretty little coquette is put in her place.

The painting is also known as the Back Nude of Mlle O'Murphy.