Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

The Toilet of Venus (La Toilette de Venus)

In an interesting twist on life imitating art, this print is based on a painting of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, for the private dressing room of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. Boucher’s image—beautifully captured by Janinet’s innovative color-printing technique—includes references to the myth of Venus, such as the pearls and silver shell tray recalling her watery birth, which also reflected the wealth and prestige of his patron.

Madame Pompadour herself is believed by some scholars to have served as the model for the figure of Venus. Even if this is not the case, the fact that she performed the title role in a play, La Toilette de Venus, at Versailles in 1750 suggests a playful comparison.

Jean-François Janinet
French, 1752–1814
after François Boucher
French, 1703 –1770
The Toilet of Venus (La Toilette de Venus)
Color etching, aquatint, and engraving in wash manner on paper
Image: 14 5/8 x 11 ½ in. (37.1 x 29.2 cm); sheet: 17 3/16 x 14 3/16 in. (43.6 x 36.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 72.107.2