Love at dawn / Divine idyll

François Boucher (Paris, 1703 – Paris, 1770) Aurora and Cephalus, oil on canvas, 1733

In bright, cheerful colours, the first light of morning welcomes the blossoming love of a man and a woman. She has a pale complexion, pink flesh and blonde hair: she is Aurora. He is a hunter accompanied by his dogs and his quiver, he has an athletic body: he is Cephalus. Aurora and Cephalus, the two lovers are on a little cloud. Time seems to have stopped. Cephalus appears captivated by the beautiful Aurora… it would be easy to forget their dreadful story.

Because Aurora and Cephalus are not like other couples. They are a myth that Ovid recounts in The Metamorphoses. Cephalus only has eyes for Aurora but he is unable to give everything up for her. He remains faithful to his wife, Procris, to Aurora’s great despair. The story has a sad end: heart-broken, the beautiful Aurora takes revenge on her lover by driving him to kill Procris while out hunting.

François Boucher, an 18th Century French painter, chooses to recount the early days of a blossoming love, with no reference to their tragic destiny. The love affairs of the gods of Antiquity were very fashionable at the time and often used as a means to deploy a wide range of colours, ornaments, draperies and curves that formed the “rococo” style.