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Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766)
Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766)

Venus chastising Cupid; and Venus and Cupid

Details
Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766)
Venus chastising Cupid; and Venus and Cupid
the first signed and dated 'Natier Le jeune. fecit/. 1717.'; the second signed and dated 'Natier Le jeune. f 1717.'
oil on canvas, oval
31½ x 26¾in. (80 x 68cm.)
A Pair (2)
Provenance
Private collection, France, since 1986.
Literature
X. Salmon in the exhibition catalogue Jean-Marc Nattier, Château de Versailles. 1999-2000, pp. 20-1.

Lot Essay

This pair of paintings illustrates two incidents from the story of Venus and Cupid, inspired by episodes from Ovid's Metamorphoses. One painting shows the love-torn Venus challenging Cupid to help her seduce the object of her affections, the young hunter Adonis. The other composition depicts a vengeful Venus who, deceived by Love, punishes Cupid by spanking him with a bunch of thorny roses. The pictures were engraved in reverse by B.-F. Lépicié for Basan's portfolio of Cent estampes diverses, sujets et paysages, gravés d'après les tableaux et dessins des plus grands peintres italiens, flamands, hollandois et franois, published in Paris in 1720. Lépicié's engravings were accompanied by anonymous quatrains that explained their themes (one is reproduced in X. Salmon, op. cit., p. 20). A replica of Venus and Cupid in a square format is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles (Inv. no. 689), and another oval version, cited by Xavier Salmon (op. cit., note 7), was with Galerie Marcus, Paris.

The son of a minor portrait painter and godson of the history painter Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet, Jean-Marc Nattier trained as a history painter himself and was received by the Académie Royale in 1718 in this highest rank. Although this rare pair of mythologies confirms Nattier's gift for history painting, he early decided to follow in his father's footsteps as a portraitist; the year he completed the present paintings, 1717, was also the year that the 32-year-old artist received his first prestigious portrait commissions from Czar Peter I of Russia, which would launch his spectacular career as the leading portrait painter of the era.
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