François Boucher (French, 1703-1770)
The Birth of Venus, n.d.
Chalk on paper 12 13/16 in. x 17 11/16 in. (32.54 cm x 44.93 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection
François Boucher developed his Rococo style during his short training under François Le Moyne, and in subsequent years in Italy after he received the Prix de Rome. He enrolled at the Académie royale in 1731 and became a professor there three years later. His playful, highly crafted style soon drew the attention of the royal court, resulting in many commissions from the king, Madame de Pompadour, and other members of court. In 1765, Boucher became both the director of the Académie royale and premier peintre du Roi.
Boucher’s Birth of Venus dates from the first years of the artist’s maturity, just after his admission to the Académie royale. It is related to a surviving canvas, made between 1731 and 1734, from a series of mythological subjects commissioned for a Parisian hôtel particulier. The artist’s gestural technique captures the outlines of the figures, with tritons, sea-nymphs and dolphins forming a pyramid that projects Venus out of the waves. In academic practice, such a rapid compositional drawing was typically followed by close studies of single figures before the artist committed the work to canvas. Three such figures survive for the Birth of Venus.