The present study was used by the artist for two commissions dating from the period around 1740. The figure appears first as a nymph seen in the lower right of an overdoor depicting The Education of Cupid (fig. 1), painted, according to Bruno Pons, for the hôtel de Mazarin in the rue de Varenne, and now in a private collection, A. Ananoff, op. cit., no.153, fig. 501. She also appears as a nymph seated by a fountain in Boucher's large tapestry of The Toilet of Psyche now in the Quirinal Palace, Rome, A. Ananoff, op. cit., no. 191.6, fig. 603.
The Education of Cupid was one of four overdoors commissioned in 1737 by Françoise de Mailly, duchesse de Meillaraye, later duchesse de Mazarin. At the Duchesse' death in 1742 only three of the overdoors, Venus and Mercury instructing Cupid and Cupid and Psyche, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Education of Cupid, had been delivered. The fourth was listed as 'chez le peintre', and was never hung at the hôtel de Mazarin. By 1825 the three completed overdoors were transfered to the hôtel de Broglie, where they are mentioned in an inventory on the death of la maréchale Lannes, duchesse de Montebello, and in F. Contet, Les vieux hôtels de Paris, Paris, 1910. Bruno Pons, in an unpublished addendum to the rue de Varenne catalogue (1981), noted that restoration of the two overdoors in Los Angeles has revealed their original lobed shape, which corresponds to the shape of four preparatory drawings for the project in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, P. Bjurström, French Drawings, Eighteenth Century, Stockholm, 1982, nos. 848-51.
The tapestry of The Toilet of Psyche, for which the present drawing was also used, was one of a series of five depicting the Story of Psyche commissioned by the French Crown on 25 November 1737. The tapestries were woven by the Manufacture de Beauvais with whom Boucher worked from 1734 until his death. The Story of Psyche is considered to be the highpoint of this collaboration.
The modello for The Toilet of Psyche, which survives in a private collection (A. Ananoff, op. cit., no. 191, fig. 601), does not include the figure of the muse for which the present sheet was used. This was not unusual as the final shape and dimensions of the tapestry, as well as its planned position in the interior, was often not finalised until the moment of production. For this reason Boucher kept his modelli as free and as flexible as possible, to allow for the addition of new figures and compositional elements, and to take full advantage of the available space and sources of light. These final details would probably have been supplied from a portfolio of figure drawings, many drawn from life, which the artist would have gathered for the purpose. This practice was common among artists from the time of Watteau. Indeed one of Boucher's earliest commissions was to engrave a series of Watteau's compositional figure studies for the collector Jean de Julienne.