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“Aurora and Cephalus” by François Boucher

“Aurora and Cephalus” by François Boucher shows Aurora, the goddess of dawn, waking up the mortal Cephalus from sleep. According to Roman mythology and Latin poetry, Aurora has fallen madly in love with Cephalus and who is one of her mortal lovers. In this Rococo masterpiece, the blue sky is tinged with pink, and the dawn can be seen with the light above her head. Furthermore, Aurora’s  etherealism or heavenly aspects are symbolised by her chariot, her flying horses and the cherubs. Especially relevant is Cephalus’s mortality and roots to earth which is signified by his dog, and his hunting catch in the bottom left.

Aurora is the Latin word for dawn and is the name of the goddess of dawn in Roman mythology, and she renews herself every morning and flies across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun. Aurora appears most often in Latin sexual poetry with one of her mortal lovers. Cephalus is a name, used for the hero-figure in Greek mythology and was one of the lovers of the Greek dawn goddess.

"Aurora and Cephalus" by François Boucher - Joy of Museums - Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art - 2

François Boucher was a French painter, who worked in the Rococo style. Boucher is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings and was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century. Boucher often took inspiration from Peter Paul Rubens and Antoine Watteau and importantly, for the time, Marquise de Pompadour (mistress of King Louis XV), was a great admirer of his work. As a result, Boucher painted several portraits of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour, who is often referred to as the “godmother of Rococo.”

Rococo or “Late Baroque”, was an exuberantly decorative 18th-century European style that exaggerated the principles of illusion and theatricality, an effect achieved by ornament, asymmetry, fluid curves, and the use of pastel colours with gilding. The Rococo style of architecture and decoration began in France, in the reign of Louis XV as a reaction against the more formal and geometric.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                Aurora and Cephalus
  • Artist:              François Boucher
  • Date:                1745
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    237.5 x 259cm
  • Museum:        Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art

Artist:

  • Name:             François Boucher
  • Born:               1703 – Paris, Kingdom of France
  • Died:               1770 (aged 66) – Paris, Kingdom of France
  • Nationality:   French
  • Movement:    Rococo
  • Notable work:

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1) JOM