François Boucher (1703 - 1770)
- Daphnis and Chloe
- Oil on canvas
- Image size: 109.5 x 154.8 cm, with rounded corners
- Signature: '.f. Boucher / 1743'
- The idea of the pastoral, depictions of an ideal rural and idyllic world inhabited by shepherds, goes back to antique literature and had been used increasingly since the Renaissance. Watteau created a Parisian version of the pastoral inhabited by fashionable young people in contemporary clothing. Boucher who was very familiar with Watteau's work from his early career as an engraver painted pastorals from the mid-1730s and developed them in a way that was seen as his own speciality. His pastorals feature gallant shepherds and shepherdesses that are simply but elegantly dressed and follow the decorum of fashionable courting. This painting is an exception in its use of half-naked figures and its openly erotic character. Because of this classicising mood, the painting has been linked to the Greek author Longus’s pastoral romance 'Daphnis and Chloe'.
The main group of the composition closely follows a bronze sculpture (lost, last documented in 1912) that could be by an Italian seventeenth-century artist: A version of it must have been available to Boucher. In this case, it would be a rare example of Boucher following a sculptural model for his paintings. A compositional drawing and studies for both protagonists exist. Boucher might have started with the composition of the bronze group and then studied studio models to prepare both figures for the painting. The compositional drawings is further away from the sculpture and might have been made after the painting.
The painting was cut down, and the painted surface originally had rounded outlines indicating the insertion into a decorative scheme. The viewpoint of the figures suggests the original use as an overdoor..