Boreas and Orithyia

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
charcoal heightened with white on blue paper
Mark Descriptions
inscribed in ink, L.L.: Natoire; stamped in black L.R.: [L. 2600, Earl of Warwick]; stamped in black, L.C.: [L. 549, Sir Charles Greville]
Credit line
Hiram W. McKee Memorial Fund
Accession number
80.366
Collection
Not Currently On View
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Spurned in his affections, Boreas, the Greek god of the wild north wind, abducted Oreithyia, the beautiful daughter of the king of Athens, and violated her in the wintry borderland of Thrace. No hint of this aggression troubles Charles-Joseph Natoire's graceful drawing of the tale. Boreas's grab becomes an embrace; Oreithyia's resistance is reduced to a modestly averted eye and a half-hearted gesture of protest. Such elegant refinements of ancient myths were characteristic of Natoire's work, and decorum conformed to the decorous tastes of the court of Louis XV, where art, artisanship, and architecture were remarkably synchronized.

Natoire was regularly commissioned to embellish the sumptuous interiors of royal and noble residences. He painted episodes from similar myths of aerial abduction-that of Cupid and Psyche or Zephyr and Flora-in lofty places over doors or on ceiling vaults, but Boreas and Oreithyia appear only once in Natoire's oeuvre, in this drawing. It is a very finished work: each line is unerringly set down, each contour unbroken, each white highlight carefully allocated, and all on luxurious blue paper. This degree of completeness characterizes "presentation drawings," made to obtain a client's approval for an expensive painting, but it is quite possible that Natoire created this drawing on its own merits for the notable collection of the renowned Paris jeweler Jean-Denis Lempereur, its first owner of record.

Thus, in life, the most brilliant things are always next to the mass of shadows . . . a painter's phrase.
-Charles-Joseph Natoire