At the Salon of 1763 Vien exhibited a remarkable set of eight paintings that he described in the booklet as being “handled in the Antique taste & costume.” He added that the composition of The Cupid Seller was based on the description of a painting found at Herculaneum, which could be seen in the study of the king of the Two Sicilies in Portici, Italy. Vien could only have learned this latter fact from the comte de Caylus, who was probably the instigator of this painting. Vien, however, depicted a contemporary scene in Antique dress—namely, a seller of trinkets who offers her goods to a young woman, except that baubles and ribbons have been replaced by Cupids. The scene takes place in an interior whose furniture and decoration are based on a reinterpretation of Antiquity. The painting thereby reflects the vogue for rejuvenating an entire sector of the vocabulary of European decorative art, though not yet the vocabulary of grand history painting.
The Marchande à la Toilette also known as The Cupid Seller – 1763 – Oil on canvas – Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau, Fontainebleau, on permanent loan from the Louvre (inv. 8424)
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