James Oswald: The Progress of Love

BENEATH the Myrtle’s secret Shade
When Delia blest my Eyes,
At first I viewed the lovely Maid
In silent soft surprise;
With trembling Voice, and Anxious Mind,
I softly whispered Love,
She blush’d a Smile so sweetly kind,
Did all my fears remove;
Did all my fears remove.

Her lovely yielding form I prest,
Sweet Maddening Kisses stole;
And soon her swimming Eyes confest,
The wishes of her Soul:
In wild tumultuous Bliss I cry,
O Delia now be kind,
She prest me close and with a Sigh,
To melting joys resign’d;
To melting joys resign’d.

A Broadside Song with music, c. 1740.

Liotard painted this picture, known as A Lady pouring Chocolate or La Chocolatière, around 1744 in Vienna. He exhibited it in Paris in 1752 and sold it in London in 1773. It is now in the National Gallery. Unlike many other pictures of this artist it is not pastel, but oil on canvas.

Chocolate entered Vienna only in 1711, when Emperor Charles IV moved his court there from Madrid, nearly a hundred years after Anne of Austria brought it to Paris.

J.E. Liotard de Geneve surnommé le Peintre Turc peint par lui meme à Vienne 1744

Jean-Étienne Liotard, who became famous mostly for his pastels, was born and died in Geneva, but lived and worked most of his life in other places. He studied in Paris under François Lemoyne, who recommended him to the French ambassador to Naples. He spent a few years in Rome and accompanied Lord Duncannon to Constantinople, where he adopted Turkish costume and grew a beard. In 1742 he went to Vienna, where he drew this self-portrait, pastel on paper. He was forty-two years old.

This is not, as I originally thought, his oldest self-portrait to survive, there are at least two earlier ones, with the first dating back to his time in Paris ten years earlier. But it’s probably the first one to show him in Turkish garb with a beard.

Pastel portrait of Charles-Joseph Natoire by Gustaf Lundberg. The year was 1741, Natoire was forty-one years old and had painted the Expulsion from Paradise in the year before.

To his contemporaries, Charles-Joseph Natoire was on a level with Boucher. This Expulsion from Paradise (1740) is full of involuntary humor. The leaves wrapped around the hips, Eve’s tearfulness and Adam’s supplicatory pose, but most of all God’s gesture that reminds a modern viewer of an angry motorist. This last bit is unfair of course, but I doubt it looked very divine to contemporaries either.

There are probably few epochs in the history of art that were as far from religion as the court of Louis XV. The buzzword of the time was galant, which carried connotations of tenderness, elegance, eroticism, and was applied to pretty much everything. Prints in religious or moral books were often adapted erotic scenes. If you see, in the above scene, Eve as a girl who has just lost her virginity, Adam as the man who did the deed, and God as the angry father, it makes a lot more sense.

Rosalba Carriera left at least half a dozen self-portraits. This is the last one, from about 1740 or later. At the time, she was depressed because of the deaths of her sister Giovanna and her mother, and she was losing her eyesight. By 1746, aged 71, she was completely blind in spite of two painful cataract operations.

The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from the oratorio Solomon (1749) by Georg Friedrich Händel. Performed in the beautiful baroque church of Oberaudorf in Bavaria.

Trop verte et mal éclairé.

Too green and badly lit: François Boucher about nature in a letter to Nicolas Lancret.