Essentially a portraitist and still-life painter, Largillierre painted a few mythological subjects, like Venus and Adonis (private collection, see Nicolas de Largillierre, peintre du Grand Siècle, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, 14 October 2003-30 January 2004, pp. 110-11, no. 24). The painter's posthumous inventory, drawn up in 1746, mentions some pictures in this genre executed by the master, now lost: Apollo and Daphne, Pan and Syrinx, Zephyrus and Flora, Erigone and Jupiter changed into a Bull. The present picture finds its source in Ovid (The Metamorphoses, VIII, 260-546): the king of Calydon having forgotten to make the usual offerings to Diana, the goddess sends an enormous wild boar to devastate the kingdom. Meleager, the son of the king, raises an army of heroes to destroy the beast, but the strokes of their weapons only arouse the fury of the animal. The only woman taking part in the expedition, the heroine Atalanta, gives a severe stroke to the wild boar. Inspired by her bravery and skill, Meleager finishes off the wild boar and gives its head and skin - the trophies of the hunt - to Atalanta, considering that she deserves the full glory of the monster's defeat. But Meleager's uncles protest against the presentation of the spoils to a mere woman, and the young man is forced to fight his own kin to defend his decision and Atalanta's honour. Largillierre has chosen to concentrate his composition on the figure of Atalanta, with a beautiful treatment of the light falling upon her, so that she appears almost like Diana surrounded by her companions. On the ground lies the wild boar's head, that Meleager has offered her. Seen beyond amidst the trees on the left, the son of the king of Calydon is fighting against one of his uncles.
Painted circa 1690-95, this painting highlights Largillierre's talents as a portraitist: beautiful shimmering fabrics, warm and harmonious shades, a supple and rapid brushwork, a chiaroscuro inspired by Flemish artists.
We are grateful to Dr. Dominique Brême for his assistance in cataloguing this lot. He will be including this work in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.