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Longus’s pastoral romance Daphnis and Chloe provides the subject for a work which combines the erotic potential of classical literature with the sentimentality of the pastoral. The incident is charged with voyeuristic frisson: Chloe fell asleep in the noonday shade to the sound of Daphnis’ pipe, upon which he ‘began to gaze insatiably at every part of her’. Boucher developed a theatrical vision of the sentimental attachment of shepherds and shepherdesses (cf. Boucher P399, P431 and P482). The sensuous, passive female nude was also a favourite theme of the artist (cf. Boucher P438). Although drawings for the composition and figures are known, it appears that Boucher’s figure group was inspired by an Italian seventeenth-century bronze statuette, possibly by Francesco Fanelli (last recorded 1912).
Daphnis and Chloe
oil on canvas
H 109.5 x W 154.8 cm
acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford c.1865–1869; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897