Venus Awakening
(Edouard Dubufe)


Edouard Dubufe’s Venus Awakening (Plate 3) is clearly indebted to Ingres, but, though Dubufe venerated Ingres, Venus Awakening is not a copy of Ingres’s Venus Anadyomène. Ingres’s great Venus Anadyomene differs strongly in temperament from Double’s treatment of the same subject. While Ingres’s figure coyly reciprocates the viewer’s gaze, Dubufe’s Venus appears insensible to the fact that she is the object of regard. Dubufe’s painting also disposes of the swarm of putti at the feet of Ingres’s goddess; Dubufe instead places a sleeping cupid by her side, which subdues the mood of the work. Dubufe manages to curb the somewhat-assertive sexual nature of Ingres’s Venus; instead, he shows a surprisingly truthful female nude, however romanticized the painting’s final construction remains. Painted as a small exquisite oval, Dubufe’s Venus possesses no cagey stare or purposely-seductive stance, nor does she unwaveringly engage the viewer. She stands in a posed stretch, eyes barely open. Her face is detailed and surprisingly un-idealized, painted with a sharp nose and eyes that look puffy from sleep. Venus’s face appears much as one would imagine Dubufe’s sleeping model’s face to look. Pink and blue undertones color her body and are painted with consistent, delicate brushstrokes. This direct portrayal of the female form is separated from a fantastical azure and turquoise shore by a sheet of drapery that floats behind the nude. While the figure’s hair, the drapery, and the foliage in the background all move in the breeze, the cloth seems to emphasize the veracity of one plane and the magical quality of the other.

By employing impeccable draftsmanship and a subtle palette, Dubufe, in Venus Awakening, paints a more self-possessed and confident nude compared to the Venuses that appeared just a year later at the Salon of 1863 (the famously referenced Salon of Venuses). Dubufe’s nude is not empowered and unsentimental, as the ’63 Salon’s Olympia. But unlike Cabanel’s artfully eroticized Venus, also shown at that Salon, Dubufe’s figure is neither salacious nor meant to titillate. Dubufe’s Venus Awakening appears newly born, as Dante begins (in Canto XXVII of Purgatorio) his dream of Leah. The fact that the dream is of a biblical matriarch supports the idea that Dante here describes a modest Venus. The dream begins in the hour Venus (here named Cytherea, for the land where she first washed ashore), was newly born out of the sea, ‘burning with love’, but still chaste. The passage also describes the scene in Gustave Moreau’s Birth of Venus (Venus appearing to the Fishermen).

‘Ne l’ora, credo, che de l’oriente
prima raggiò nel monte Citerea,
che di foco d’amor par sempre ardente’

10 3/8 by 8 1/4 ins (26.4 by 21 cm)
Oil on oval canvas

Literature: Emmanuel Bréon, Claude-Marie, Edouard et Guillaume Dubufe, Portraits d’un Siècle d’Elegance Parisienne, Paris, n.d. Our painting was not known at the time this work was compiled

Where is It?
Stair Sainty Matthiesen Inc., NY
Historical Period
Romanticism - 1810-1870
2001-European Paintings-From 1600-1917.
Baroque, Rococo, Romanticism, Realism, Futurism.

(Click on image above)
Price band
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