The god Mercury, with Venus in the background, tries to teach Cupid to read. Engraving by R. Gaillard, 1744, after Van-Loo le pere.
- Vanloo, le pere.
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L'amour a l'ecole. ... Van-Loo le pere pinx. R. Gaillard sculp.... Tiré du cabinet de M. le Prince Carignant
Paris (rue de la Harpe) : Le Bas Graveur du Cabinet du Roy, 1744.
1 print : engraving ; image 27 x 35 cm
Wellcome Library no. 29091i
Charles Le Blanc, Manuel de l'amateur d'estampes, Paris 1854-1889, vol. II p. 261, no. 24 ("Amour à l'école ([L'): Jean-Bapt. van Loo. P. en Larg.")
E. Pognon and Y. Bruand, Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des Estampes, Inventaire du fonds français: graveurs du XVIIIe siècle, vol. 9, Paris 1962, p. 413, no. 196 ("[L'amour à l'école, d'après J.B. Van Loo]. Ch Le Blanc no. 24", the square brackets presumably meaning that there is no impression in the Bibliothèque Nationale)
Composition described in the lettering as by "Van-Loo le pere": meaning Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684-1745), father of Charles-Amédée Philippe (1719-1795), as suggested by Le Blanc? or meaning his younger brother Carle Van Loo (1705-1765), by whom a painting of "L'éducation de l'Amour" is recorded by Bénézit in Aix (presumably Musée Granet), but whose son Jules-César Denis Van Loo was not born until 1743? Both brothers worked for the princes of Carignan
The demand for light mythological paintings to decorate townhouses was satisfied by many skilful decorative painters such as François Boucher and the Van Loo brothers, Jean-Baptiste (1684-1745) and Carle (1705-1765). One of the Van Loo brothers designed this composition and painted it in one of the townhouses of the House of Savoy-Carignon such as the Hôtel de Soissons in Paris. French engravers developed sophisticated methods of hatching, cross-hatching and stippling, which made Paris the centre of the printmaking world before the Revolution. This print was one of only a few published by Jacques-Philippe Le Bas (1707-1783), himself one of the most admired engravers of his time
After: a painting in the cabinet of Victor-Amédée I of Savoy (1690-1741), Prince of Carignano (Carignan) 1709 to 1741, and decorator of the Hôtel de Soissons in Paris, or possibly his successor Louis-Victor de Savoie (Luigi-Vittorio di Savoia-Carignano) (1721-1778), Prince of Carignano (Carignan) from 1741 to 1778
Mercury, the god of the literary arts and eloquence, sits on the left, identified by his winged helmet and by the caduceus, the winged rod with two snakes which lies on the ground. The wings represent the "winged words" which fly from the lips of the eloquent speaker. Mercury tries to teach Cupid to read, while Cupid's mother Venus looks on with an expression of detachment. The verses below the engraving say that Mercury may set himself up as teacher of the arts of persuasion, but Cupid, despite his youth, knows better than his teacher how to influence people, not with verbal skill but with a gesture, a sigh or a meaningful glance. The engraving designed by an artist of the Van Loo family epitomizes the elegance of the arts and crafts of pre-Revolutionary France (the "Ancien Régime"). For all their skill, these artists relied on the inherited traditions of Graeco-Roman religion, such as the deities Mercury, Venus and Cupid, to enable them to depict subjects such as the relative roles of communication, expression, and emotion