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The second picture of the pair with P484 is part of the story of the birth of the wine god Bacchus. When pregnant 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. According to the collector Mariette, Boucher painted the whole series, which hung in the lawyer Derbais’ house in Paris, without charge on the understanding that he would show them to prospective clients. The stratagem appears to have been successful, and a subsequent client, Bachaumont, asked the artist to ‘remember well what you did for Monsieur Derbais’ when he commissioned a landscape from the artist in 1737.

The Wallace Collection



Mercury Confiding the Infant Bacchus to the Nymphs




oil on canvas


H 230 x W 273 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1843; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897

Work type



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The Wallace Collection

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