Cézanne's early works depict a turbulent and romantic world heavily influenced by Old Master painters, religious imagery, allegorical tales and 19th Century literature. He employed a cruder and heavier painting style and a darker and more brooding color palette in these early works, the present painting executed in a nearly chiaroscuro format.
L'amour en plâtre, painted circa 1867, depicts a plaster putto statuette, which was originally attributed to Pierre Puget and is now considered to be by François Duquesnoy. Putto, Italian for "boy," was a term revived in the Italian renaissance to refer to chubby, nude infant boys--often depicted as winged cupids--who regularly appeared in Italian painting to symbolize purity, divinity and profound romance. Cézanne depicted this putto in five oil paintings, five watercolors, and twelve drawings. Rewald considers this painting one of the finest works from the series, stating:
In this painting the plaster cast is rendered exclusively in various shades of light gray with vigorous white accents. The brush strokes are sweeping and emphatic, as though the picture were dashed off in an inspired moment. The bottom of the canvas is dark gray, turning slowly to black and forming a dramatic contrast with plaster...The brushwork of this canvas can be compared to that of the large standing nude which Cézanne painted over a landscape on a wall at the Jas de Bouffan; in both cases the artist's brush powerfully underlines the curves of the body (op. cit., p. 75).