Diana Leaving the Bath

7:00 AM

Francois Boucher, Diana Leaving the Bath, 1742
By LISA MAEDA

Let's be honest. Upon encountering this scene, these ladies would make sure you would leave with a face full of arrows. Luckily for you, they won’t notice, as Francois Boucher has conveniently frozen them in place.

Boucher puts us in an awfully uncomfortable position. We peep in on an intimate scene meant to be shared by only Diana, an esteemed Roman goddess, and her assistant. Freshly bathed, they emerge from the waters to their repose on land. She poses, cross legged and relaxed. Her helper leans forward, examining the fair deity to assure her cleanliness. Remnants of today’s excursion hang off Diana’s bow – a not so subtle reference of her hunting excellence. Yet, even with that blunt reminder of the goddess’s ferocity, the Diana of the moment is unaware of our presence.

Though the two women are at the focal point of the picture, Diana takes precedence. She adheres to the bodily fashion of the times, an intentional gesture by Boucher to make the painting more appealing to collectors. It’s no wonder that his character was brought under scrutiny after he began producing paintings more on the bare side. Even more so, when he reduces divine women into vulnerable young girls. Diana Leaving the Bath is a prime example of this concept. Everything seems a smidge too perfect, especially from a man’s point of view. Her bow has been tossed aside to focus on her unblemished figure, a testament to her oath to remain pure. Rather than a goddess, she is reduced to an idealized symbol of virginity. Way to be gross, Boucher.

So why buy it? To show that you’ve tamed the goddess, of course. Sure, she’ll never take a man’s hand in marriage, but that doesn’t mean a man can’t own her. Put it up on your mantle and have a good laugh with the guys! Or, thoroughly upset your wife. Either way, this pervasive piece of art will make an unforgettable impression.

Editor's Note: The authors were asked to write sales copy for Edme-François Gersaint, the prominent rococo art dealer who offered a printed catalog of available works.

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