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Toilette de Venus

Toilette de Venus, 1958.5.137.
Toilette de Venus, 1958.5.137.

Toilette de Venus, 1866, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807–1876), Oil on canvas, Bequest of Frederick T. and Valerie K. L. Bonham, 1958.5.137.

Diaz de la Peña was initially seen as an outsider for his unwillingness to “prettify” nature, but was later admired as a leader of the Barbizon school—a group associated with the Forest of Fontainebleau near Paris who shunned convention to create down-to-earth, humble landscapes.

Unlike other Barbizon artists, however, de la Peña enhanced the commercial appeal of his paintings by filling them with nudes and mythological subjects like this image of Venus, the goddess of love, drying herself after bathing. Venus was a popular subject in the 1800s, as she allowed artists to introduce eroticism into a work without offending moral sensibilities.

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