The Sale of Cupids

La merchant of love - château de Fontainebleau - © RMN Grand Palais

Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809)
H. 116 cm; L. 141 cm
Oil on canvas
Château de Fontainebleau, Inv 8424
Gallery of Splendours.

This painting by Joseph Marie Vien (1716-1809) was painted in 1763 and given as a gift to to the Countess du Barry in 1788, the last and sulphurous mistress of Louis XV, who hung it in her castle at Louveciennes.. It was confiscated during the Revolution and sent to Fontainebleau in 1837 to adorn the walls of the antechamber in the apartment of the Duchess of Orléans, daughter-in-law to King Louis-Philippe. The painting was admired by many at the Salons, notably by Diderot. In the the history of painting it has become a kind of manifesto for neoclassicism. The subject is inspired by an ancient Roman painting discovered in 1759 in Gragnano near Naples, which was popularised in engraving as early as 1762.

Numerous details give the work the “Greek touch” that was a la mode in the arts at that time. The rocky boulders are followed by friezes of triglyphs and metopes, fluted pilaster columns and the antique style of headdresses and costumes skilfully draped and worn by the young women in this painting. However, the graceful faces with powdery complexions, the delicate jewellery box, the smooth gestures and the detail of the rose on the table give this scene a boudoir atmosphere, not unlike the rococo theme of the fashion merchant.

2018-1019, Château de Fontainebleau, Louis-Philippe à Fontainebleau. The King and History.
2013-2014, Montpellier, Musée Fabre, The Preference of Diderot. Greuze, Chardin, Falconet, David…
2010-2011, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Dreamed Antiquity. Innovations and resistances in the 18th century.
1998, Château de Fontainebleau, Painters For a Castle. Fifty paintings (16th – 19th century) from the collections at the Château de Fontainebleau.

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