Boucher, François (1703 - 1770)

The Beautiful Cook

Exposé en salle

Date : Avant 1735
Size : H. 55.5 x l. 43.2 cm
Inventory number : J 13
Signature : Signé en bas, à droite : "F. Boucher"

This early work by Boucher depicts a seemingly innocuous scene of seduction played out between an enterprising young man and a young woman in a rustic kitchen interior. Utensils, living or dead animals and architectural elements are all depicted in a still life of remarkable thoroughness in shades of brown and green. This approach, derived from 17th-century Dutch painting, was very popular with Parisian collectors during Boucher's time. The latter, however, stands apart from the moral rigour of the Dutch and its expression in the visual arts by favouring a more sensual tone in the treatment of the materials and the relationship between the two young people. This scene hides a more complex reality, echoed by the caption of the engraving which reproduces it. The presence of the broken eggs on the floor and the dress of the "beautiful cook" - traditional images for the loss of virginity - presage a carnal act. The other significant details of the composition, such as the pot overflowing on the fire, the vegetables, such as cabbage, a symbol of fertility and the cucumbers, with their obviously phallic shape, underline the underlying eroticism of the scene, tinged with danger. The cat devouring a hen completes the depiction of an inevitable fatal outcome.

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