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

The Bath of Venus

Oil on canvas, 107 x 85 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

This canvas was painted for Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764), mistress of Louis XV. It was installed in the bathroom in the Château de Bellevue, outside Paris. Its more well known companion piece The Toilet of Venus is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The two paintings are among Boucher's most poetic and graceful images of one of his favourite subjects.

The focus of the composition of the Bath of Venus is the youthful and beautiful Venus, the soft contours of her figure highlighted against the rich greens and blues of the background. A fine study in red and white chalks, drawn from a live model in the studio, demonstrates the care Boucher took in working out the pose. The youthful goddess is one in a long line of Boucher's female nudes. Although Boucher made life studies for each of these figures, their ultimate source is one of the most ravishing of all Rococo nudes, The Bather, painted by Boucher's teacher, François Lemoyne, exhibited at the Salon of 1725.