Jean-Honoré Fragonard, French, 1732-1806
Title: Venus and Cupid (Day)
Date: c.1755
Medium: Oil on canvas
114 x 133 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1978 (Shaw Fund)
Object Number: NGI.4313
DescriptionFragonard was renowned for his romantic paintings in the Rococo style. This decorative composition shows Venus, goddess of love, and her son Cupid in a gilded chariot. They hold garlands of roses whilst being drawn through the clouds by a pair of white doves. Fragonard’s use of a pastel palette enhances the fanciful mood of the scene.
The painting is one of a series of four over-doors depicting the times of the day. The others are The Three Graces (Dawn), Cupid Setting the Universe Ablaze (Dusk) and Night Spreads her Veils (Night).
In 1770 Madame du Barry, maîtresse-en-titre (chief mistress) to Louis XV of France, purchased the series to decorate her château at Louveciennes. She paid 1,200 livres for the pictures, and another 420 livres to have three of them enlarged, relined and retouched, presumably to fit in with a pre-existing decorative setting. The addition of a strip of canvas is visible across the top edge of this painting.

March 2016

ProvenanceSold by F.H. Drouais to Mme. du Barry, June 1770; seized at Louveciennes in 1794; presented by Napoleon I to Baronne Denot; Collection Leon Helft; Wildenstein, New York; Collection Emile Buhrle, Zurich; Wildenstein, New York; purchased, Wildenstein, New York, 1978
Exhibition HistoryLe Siècle de Louis XV vu par les artistes, Galerie Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1934

Exposition de l'art francais au XVIIIe siècle, Palais de Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 1935

Auslandische Kunst in Zurich, Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1943

De Watteau á Cezanne, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva, 1951

Fragonard, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bern, 1954

The Nude in Painting, Wildenstein, New York, 1956

From Titian to Delacroix: Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, Yokohama Sogo Museum of Art, Yokohama, 25 August - 17 October 1993; Chiba Sogo Museum of Art, Chiba, 10 November - 20 December 1993; Prefectural Museum of Art, Yamaguchi, 5 January - 20 February 1994; Kobe City Museum, Kobe, 25 February - 10 April 1994; Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo, 14 April - 24 May 1994

European Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery, Canberra, 25 June 1994 - 3 October 1994; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Adelaide, 21 October 1994 - 15 January 1995

Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs, The Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, 22 March - 6 September 2015; Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 10 October 2015 - 17 January 2016
Label TextVenus, goddess of love, and her son Cupid sail through the sky on a gilded chariot, pulled by turtle doves. The pastel colours enhance the sense of fantasy in this Rococo confection. It is the second of four canvases by Fragonard depicting the times of day, a favourite eighteenth-century theme. Intended as decoration over doorways, they were purchased in 1770 by Madame du Barry, official mistress of Louis XV, for her château at Louveciennes. An additional strip of sky, added to enlarge the canvas for placement in the château, can be seen at the top edge of the picture.

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