Lot 81: CHARLES CHAPLIN
19th Century European Art including Sporting Paintings
April 25, 2006
New York, NY, USA
HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT
71 1/2 by 45 in.
181.6 by 114.3 cm
signed Ch. Chaplin (lower right)
oil on canvas
The present work derives from a long tradition of french decorative painting that stretches back to the seventeenth Century. In the Baroque period, artists frequently depicted scenes of the Loves of the Gods, often giving visual form to the mythological tales of Ovid. In the Rococo period, these images were secularized, substituting Greek gods with idealized happy peasants, or aristocrats playing the part of a peasant. Following the poetic idealization of Virgil's "Georgics", artists painted scenes of rustic love, joyfully untroubled by the complications of urban sophistication.
This picture floats easily between prototypes. The winged "putti" clearly allude to the mythological tradition epitomized by François Boucher (1703-1770), yet the figure is clearly a mortal woman, not an Olympian goddess. The subject's deshabillé and, more subtly, her bare foot's flirtation with the water's edge, express an abandonment of social strictures, but the sumptuous satin and linen mark this woman as someone of social distinction.
Highly decorative, this genre reached its height with the works of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) who provided patrons with multiple panels charting the progress of romantic love. The present work may well have comprised part of a similar series.