Boucher’s Reclining Nude (1730’s)

Years of research have led me to the still-tentative conclusion that reclining nudes by great artists are a symbol of Painting itself. The artist's mind - the only possible setting for a work of art -  is often imagined as an organ of female conception, a womb, which the horizontal postion, usually on a bed, further suggests. Sexual conception has long been art's metaphor for mental conception.1

This nude by François Boucher, conceived realistically, is "the work of art" but a picture is created out of a world with a different type of perception, the artist's mind. There, mental images are seen from all sides and unusual points-of-view. They are different.2

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

Boucher, Reclining Nude (1730's) Red chalk with white chalk highlights on buff paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Click image to enlarge.

That must be why no-one has noticed a visual illusion, an up-close view of Boucher himself. All he has is one eye, the tip of his nose and a mouth (see diagram). Once you see them, the illusion is compelling. We are an inch away from his nose so its tip, her buttock, is vast. A portrait (right) shows his large nose and his lips. The breasts and arm of the nude are in between where his two "eyes" would be, thereby conveying visual fertility and the eye's link to his craft.3 Her hand, in art's poetic terms, even "draws" her own head.4

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Boucher, Reclining Nude (1730's) with diagram below
​R: Detail of Gustav Lundberg's Portrait of François Boucher (1741), inverted

Click image to enlarge.

His artwork is a reclining nude. However, given art's self-representation, she too is "Boucher" and resembles his earliest self-portrait (right). With his androgynous mind, she is his feminine side.5

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Boucher's Reclining Nude (1730's)
R: Self-portrait detail of Boucher's Self-portrait in the Studio (1720)

Click image to enlarge.

The nude's other hand with its finger pointing "draws" as well. Indeed it is in the process of "drawing" his "mouth" which, in a circular route and with a play on his name, brings her back to himself. The French for a mouth is "bouche".6  
 

Captions for image(s) above:

Boucher, Reclining Nude (1730's)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

1. See explanation of the theme Conception (Sexual and Mental).

2. For a description of mental images, see "Cubism Explained" (2011).

3. See how hands and eyes in art are often linked under the theme Hand and Eye.

4. See Pointing and Touch.

5. See Androgyny.

6. For how artists pun on their own name, see "A Musical Note and Letters" (2014)

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 15 Mar 2015. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.