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#AdoptAnObject: ‘Toilette de Venus,’ Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña

We’re excited for you to follow along as we continue to launch new objects for our Adopt-an-Object Initiative!

We’ve already been able to conserve several objects through this program thanks to the generosity of museum supporters. McClung Museum Board chair Dr. John Peters and his wife Barbara Cole Peters recently adopted two Elizabeth Nourse painting from the McClung’s collections. The Peters told us that “conserving these paintings is one of the most important ways that donors can support the McClung. Moreover, in their research of the life and career of Elizabeth Nourse, the Peters discovered that she is Barbara’s 7th distant cousin!

“What a thrill it is for us to support the McClung and the work of a fascinating and talented ancestor.”- Dr. John Peters and his wife Barbara Cole Peters

Learn more about the next piece in need of conservation below.

Toilette de Venus, 1866, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807–1876), Oil on canvas, Bequest of Frederick Bonham, 1958.5.134.

Today’s object is Toilette de Venus, a beautiful painting by the artist Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807–1876).

Diaz de la Peña was a leader of the Barbizon School—a group of artists 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 landscapes 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.

Venus and Two Cupids, 1847, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807–1876), Oil on canvas, The National Gallery, London.

The nude or semi-nude Venus was a favorite of Diaz de la Peña’s––the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the National Gallery, London both have paintings of this subject. How lucky that we have another right here at UT!

This object is very popular with professors, who often request that we pull this painting as a part of teaching associated with the museum’s Academic Programs and Object Study Room. During COVID closures, our Object Study Room has been closed for in-person viewing of objects, but many professors are still booking virtual object study requests for their classes so that students can get this unique up-close-and-personal experience.

Venus and Cupid (I), about 1845–50, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807–1876), Oil on canvas, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow, 23.478.

Unfortunately, the painting’s intricate frame (not pictured), is so fragile that it prevents the painting from being able to be pulled or exhibited. Along with frame restoration, the painting needs to be glazed (museum glass will help protect the painting’s surface from dust, dirt, and UV exposure) so that it can be pulled for these important teaching opportunities. Help us conserve this object for important educational uses!

Full restoration of Toilette de Venus will cost $1,500.

Adopt this Object

Gifts should be directed to the Museum Support Fund using this online form. Alternatively, contact Stacy Palado, Director of External Relations, at or 865-974-2143 for more information.