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Work Naiads and Triton: study for The Rising of the Sun

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Naïades et Triton : derrière deux naïades, le triton tient une conque

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Grollemund Hélène

This drawing from Boucher's mature period is a study for the group in the right foreground of his Rising of the Sun, signed and dated 1753, now in the Wallace Collection, London, together with its companion piece, The Setting of the Sun. Shown at the Salon of 1753, these were bought by Mme de Pompadour for the Château de Bellevue and also used as designs for Gobelins tapestries. The drawing itself was engraved by G. Demarteau and copied several times in the artist's own studio.

A much reproduced work of maturity

Highly pictorial, this drawing is one of the most accomplished works of Boucher's maturity. It displays two essential features of the artist's style in this period: the fullness of the modeling and the ease of composition, here organized around the diagonal represented by the body of the principal bather to which are joined the supple curves of the two other figures. The vigor and freedom of execution of the triton still find their inspiration in Rubens's epic imagination, but the supple and vigorous figures are also reminiscent of Watteau's drawings, some of which Boucher had engraved for Jean de Jullienne. Numerous reproductions of this drawing were produced in the artist's studio, but they lack the authority and vigor of Boucher's broad and generous line. This exceptional work also became widely known through copies from the crayon-manner engraving in sanguine by Gilles Demarteau, after 1761; this bears the number 53 and the note: "Tiré du Cabinet de M. d'Azaincourt (musée du Louvre, collection Rothschild, INV. 25576 LR)."

Considered composition

More than ten drawings in both private and public collections have been connected to the two paintings shown at the Salon of 1753, evidence of the attention Boucher devoted to these compositions. The half-length Nereid (Amsterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum) and the two Tritons (London, Wallace Collection; Art Institute of Chicago) are to be found in The Rising of the Sun, while the Louvre has another Nereid drawn for The Setting of the Sun (RF 25009). The Horse (Vienna, Albertina) and the Triton (Weimar, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen) are studies for the same paintings. Finally, a drawing at the Musée de Lille depicts a Female Nude lying down and seen from the back, in a pose very like that of the Naiad.

Boucher rediscovered

Boucher was very much an artist of the baroque age. He received royal commissions, his works served as designs for tapestries at Gobelins and Beauvais, and in 1745 he became a protégé of Madame de Pompadour and was much in demand. Both artists and art lovers evinced a real interest in his work, but he came in for fierce criticism after the mid-18th century. The dawn of the Enlightenment saw him criticized for his complicity with the aestheticism of the first half of the century and for what was seen as the lack of seriousness in his work. His reputation did not outlast his death, and he remained forgotten for a century. Thanks to the Goncourt brothers, who saw in him the embodiment of his age, he then became one of the most celebrated 18th-century French painters, and the two paintings in the Wallace Collection were seen by collectors as the "two great showpieces" of his work.


A. Ananoff, L'Oeuvre dessiné de François Boucher (1703-1770) : catalogue raisonné, 1966.
G. Monnier, in Dessins français du XVIIIe siècle. Amis et contemporains de P.J. Mariette, Paris, musée du Louvre, 1967, n 56.
P. Jean-Richard, François Boucher : gravures et dessins provenant du Cabinet des Dessins et de la Collection Edmond de Rothschild au Musée du Louvre, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1971, n 111.
A. Ananoff, D. Wildenstein (collab.), François Boucher, 1976, 2 vol.
Fr. Joulie et J.-Fr. Méjanès, in François Boucher hier et aujourd'hui, exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, 2003-2004.

Technical description

  • François Boucher (Paris, 1703-Paris, 1770)

    Naiads and Triton: study for The Rising of the Sun

    c. 1750-53

    Gabriel Huquier Collection; Blondel d'Azincourt Collection; Georges-Édouard Deligand Collection

  • Red chalk, red challk wash, highlights in white chalk, black chalk, and stumping

    H. 29.1 cm; W. 46.8 cm

  • Georges-Édouard Deligand Collection; bequeathed 1940

    RF 29327

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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