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“The Rising of the Sun” by François Boucher

"The Rising of the Sun" by François Boucher
“The Rising of the Sun” by François Boucher

“The Rising of the Sun” by François Boucher depicts the god Apollo ascending into the sky, as he hastens away the nocturnal darkness with the outstretching of his arms.

This extravagant painting shows Apollo as the god of the Sun, leaving the nymph Tethys with her Nereids and Tritons in the ocean as he drives up the morning sun.

According to Ovid, the sun god Apollo drove his sun chariot drawn by four white horses across the heavens during the day, bringing light to the world.

At nightfall, he would return with his chariot to Tethys and sink back beneath the waves in the evening. 

The turquoise and azure blues announce the coming of the day. The light of the morning is brought into contrast by the shadows at the periphery of the canvas.

The foreground is populated by the nude bodies of nymphs and naiads. They overlap with one another to create a series of curves that are echoed in the forms of the waves.

The meeting of sky and sea affirms the mythological setting of this composition. Boucher created this painting and its pair “The Setting of the Sun” as an integrated pairing layered with allegory and symbolism.

The two works were intended as a model for the production of a set of tapestries. Madame de Pompadour commissioned the works for the Gobelins Manufactory of tapestries.

The tapestries were produced from the paintings and completed in 1754-1755 then hung in the King’s bedroom at château de Bellevue. 

Art historians have interpreted the depiction of the nymph, Thetis, who holds the reins of Apollo’s horses, as symbolizing Madame de Pompadour.

The nymph Thetis who aided the sun god Apollo in his voyage across the sky represented  Madame de Pompadour, who had an active role as a political advisor in the King’s court.

This mythological scene of harmonious beauty exemplifies the elegance of the Rococo aesthetic. The decorative nature of this composition was essential for the design of tapestries, which would adorn and complement a luxurious country chateau.


Rococo was an exuberantly decorative 18th-century European style. It exaggerated the principles of illusion and theatricality.

The ornament was achieved with asymmetry, fluid curves, and the use of pastel colors 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.

Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour (1721 – 1764) was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1751 and remained influential as court favorite until her death.

Pompadour took charge of the King’s schedule and was a valued aide and advisor, despite her many political enemies. She was particularly careful not to alienate the Queen, Marie Leszczyńska.

Pompadour was a significant patron of architecture and decorative arts. She was a patron of the philosophes of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire.


Apollo was one of the Olympian deities in classical Greek religion and mythology. The national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo, has been recognized as a god of the Sun, the light, and more.

He is the son of Zeus, and the twin brother of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. He was considered the most beautiful god and the ideal of the kouros (athletic youth). Apollo is regarded as the most Greek of all the gods.

François Boucher

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 called the “godmother of Rococo.”

The Rising of the Sun

  • Title:                The Rising of the Sun
  • Artist:              François Boucher
  • Date:               1753
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    Height: 318 cm (10.4 ft); Width: 261 cm (102.7 in)
  • Museum:        The Wallace Collection

François Boucher

The Setting of the Sun by François Boucher

Apollo – Greek god of the sun and light

Virtual Tour of the Wallace Collection

An introduction to the Wallace Collection


“This vision is within our grasp.”
– Francois Boucher


Photo Credit 1) François Boucher [Public domain]

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