Cupid and Venus

Henri Fantin-Latour, 1836 - 1904

Cupid and Venus

Henri Fantin-Latour 1836 - 1904


Venus stands in the shade of a tree, dressing her hair with the help of a small, gold handmirror, while her maid attends to the long blue and gold robe that covers her from the waist down. Like Venus, the attendant is semi-naked, her gold-edged red robe lying loosely around her thighs. Cupid watches them, his quiver in his arms. Venus is in deep shade, less clearly indicated than the other figures, who are further forward, the sun catching their pale skin and defining them better. The lack of overall definition leads to an emphasis on colour and form, such as the touches of gold that bind all three figures and the triangular composition that unites them. Fantin-Latour studied from the age of ten with his father, Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1805–75). In 1850, at fourteen, he began an apprenticeship in the Paris studio of Horace Lecocq de Boisbaudran, where he spent six years copying from the Old Masters and from nature, which was standard practice in mid-nineteenth-century ateliers. Following a brief spell at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he studied briefly with Gustave Courbet, although he would reject the latter's extreme realism. Fantin-Latour sometimes exhibited alongside the Impressionists, but he continued to show his work at the Salon, where his work attracted good reviews. From the 1870s, he developed further his early interest in mythological subjects and music, inspired by Old Master painting, and by the music of Wagner and Berlioz. His brushwork was often loose, as it is here, but the lustrous realism of his still life painting recalls the meticulous work of 17th and 18th century Dutch masters of that genre, and that of the great 18th century French still life painter, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779).

Object Name

Cupid and Venus

Creators Name

Henri Fantin-Latour

Date Created



framed: 37cm x 32.1cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


Dr David Lloyd Roberts bequest, 1920


© Manchester Art Gallery

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