Cupid Seducing Innocence by Prud’hon Acquired by Ottawa

1. Pierre Paul Prud’hon (1758-1823)
Cupid Seducing Innocence, Pleasure
Pulling her, Repentance Follows
, 1809 ?
Oil on Canvas - 97.5 x 81.5 cm
Ottawa, Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada
Photo : Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada

5/1/13 - Acquisition - Ottawa, Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada - The Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada acquired one of Pierre-Paul Prud’hon’s most important works still available on the art market from the Wildenstein Gallery in New York [1] (ill. 1). This is in fact a commission made in 1809 by the Administration des Beaux-Arts for the Empress Josephine, probably abandoned after she was repudiated by Napoleon. The painting remained in the painter’s studio until he died, then was acquired in 1823 at auction by Odiot, the silversmith.

Prud’hon was a great creator of allegories - we need just remember his most famous one, Justice and Divine Vengeance Chasing away Crime. Although Cupid is one of the most frequently recurring figures in early 19th century European painting and sculpture, the image presented here does not seem to have any iconographic precedent. We recognize Cupid due to his wings and bow, though with an extremely effiminate allure and hairdo, leading Innocence while a putto representing Pleasure pulls on her tunic and a woman in a desolate attitude, symbolizing Repentance follows the couple close behind, ready to swoop down on Innocence.

2. Pierre Paul Prud’hon (1758-1823)
Innocence, 1809 ?
Black and White Pencil,
Pink Chalk Heightenings - 58.8 x 31.7 cm
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
Photo : Pierpont Morgan Library

3. Pierre Paul Prud’hon (1758-1823)
Cupid Seducing Innocence, Pleasure
Pulling her, Repentance Follows

Black and White Chalk - 54.7 x 45.7 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

Still partly unfinished (notably Cupid’s bow), this allegory, which the artist had thought about when arriving in Rome, was carefully prepared with drawings, many of which still reside in collections : studies of isolated figures (Cupid at the Musée Bonnat, Innocence at the Pierpont Morgan Library (ill. 2), Repentance at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm...) or groups (Louvre, Musée Bonnat, Musée Condé...). The work was engraved by Barthélémy Roger after a very accomplished drawing residing at the Louvre (ill. 3), executed especially for this engraving which presents a few differences with the painting.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 9 janvier 2013


[1] This painting was published in the catalogue Art of France, reviewed on this site.

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