The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Mercury confiding the Infant Bacchus to the Nymphs
  • François Boucher (1703 - 1770)
  • Mercury confiding the Infant Bacchus to the Nymphs
  • France
  • c. 1732 - 1734
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 230 x 273 cm
  • P487
  • Grand Staircase
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • When pregnant with Bacchus, his mother Semele was persuaded by the jealous Juno to insist that Jupiter should visit her as a god, not a mortal. Semele was duly consumed in the heat of her lover’s embrace, but Bacchus was saved and sewn into Jupiter’s thigh by Mercury.
    Together with its pendant P484, the painting formed part of a group of works, painted without fee for the lawyer Derbais between c. 1731 and c. 1735. They were hung in Derbais's billiard room and the staircase: the two paintings at the Wallace Collection, a 'Triumph of Venus' (Paris, Romanian Embassy), 'Venus and Vulcan (Paris, Musée du Louvre) and 'Aurora and Cephalus' (Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts), as well as four paintings of putti depicting the seasons and probably another overdoor of amors. At that time, Boucher was aiming to build his reputation with potential patrons after his stay in Italy. The canvases greatly impressed contemporaries, establishing the young artist’s reputation as one of the leading history painters of eighteenth-century Paris. The canvas provides a full range of qualities, a learned composition, proficiency of landscape painting, close knowledge of venetian painting, that gave an overview of Boucher's newly acquired skills.