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William Bouguereau exhibited a large version of Jeune fille se défendant contre l'Amour at the Paris Salon of 1880 where it was heralded to be one of his best mythological works. It was so successful that it led to Bouguereau producing a smaller 311⁄4 x 215⁄8
79.5cm x 55cm oil on canvas signed replica which currently resides at the J Paul Getty museum Los Angeles after being donated by Getty in 1970 from his private collection at his home in Surrey where it was on display from 1941. It was not uncommon for artists to make smaller reproductions of their more successful works and sell them to collectors as they were a good source of extra income. Bouguereau's main market being Americans as his work was very popular with them.
In this playful portrayal by William Bouguereau a young woman is seated on the edge of a carved piece of rock below what appears to be a maple tree. In the background there is clear blue sky and rolling hills and landscape for as far as the eye can see, a scene which Bouguereau often used and that was based on the French country side that so often surrounded him.
The young women's lower body is modestly covered with a robe which perhaps has slipped down exposing her upper body, pert rounded breasts and naval as a result of cupids advances, or maybe she had been laying partially naked on the stone enjoying the warmth absorbed within the rock from the sun on her body and the peace full tranquillity of the moment bathing by herself under the clear blue sky before the mischievous Cupid/Eros interrupted her peace.
Cupid/Eros has a mischievous play full look in his eye and appears determined to get the young women to fall under his spell. In this portrayal of Cupid/Eros he does not not have his bow and is instead trying to prick the young woman with a golden arrow that he is holding between his fingers on his right hand. He has his left leg raised and is resting it on the young women's thigh, obviously in an attempt to gain purchase, so as to enable him to lever himself up into the young woman's lap and prick her with his golden arrow and make her fall in love. She is obviously aware of his advances and appears non compliant although she too has a playful look in her eyes and is also smiling suggesting that perhaps part of her is open to his advances and the spell she will be under. She has her arms out stretched and is pushing on his chest offering resistance in an attempt to prevent him from getting closer to her body and enabling him to penetrate her flesh with his golden arrow and thus make her fall under his spell.
There is a definite air of love, playfulness and courtship about this piece as the expressions shared by both subjects and the body language of both subjects is not dissimilar to that of lovers playfully teasing and wrestling with each other during their initial advances and courtship.
In later literature Cupid was portrayed as being fickle, playful and in some cases perverse as it was said that he carried two types of arrow. One with a golden tip to inspire love and the other with a lead tip to inspire hatred.
If you look closely at the rock the young girl is seated on you can see that Bouguereau's signature is clearly visible.
The above account is my interpretation of the work and should in no way be taken as fact.