Like most amorous Rococo imagery, this sculpture is erotic yet somehow ambivalent in its meaning. The woman reacts with a startled, self-protective gesture as Cupid suddenly appears, to cast an arrow into her breast. At the same time, her features reveal a hypnotic attraction and her fingers seem to describe playfully the area he wishes to strike.
This vision of young love seems distilled for all time even as it shows the stylistic hallmarks of the age in which it was created. The nymph's delicately off-balance pose—exceedingly fetching when viewed from the corners—is a fine piece of Rococo invention. The carving technique, in which the marble seems touched with flickering light, echoes the painting style of the era. The group was commissioned by the duc d'Antin, surintendant des bâtiments du roi, for Louis XV in 1734 or 1735 and was stored temporarily in the Louvre upon its completion. In 1762 the king gave it to the marquis de Marigny, brother of Madame de Pompadour and minister of the arts, who place it outdoors at his château, Ménars, where it remained until the late nineteenth century.
Louis XV, King of France , Palais du Louvre, Paris (1740–62; his gift to Marigny) ; Abel-François Poisson, marquis de Marigny , Château de Ménars, France (1762–d. 1781) ; the heirs of Abel-François Poisson, marquis de Marigny and the subsequent owners of Ménars (1781–1811) ; Claude-Victor Perrin, duc de Bellune , Ménars (1811–27) ; comte de Brigode , Ménars (1827–30) ; through his widow to her husband, Joseph-Phillipe-François de Riquet, prince de Chimay , Ménars (from 1830) ; his daughter Marie-Henriette-Valentine Riquet ; and her husband the prince de Bauffremont (1879–81; sale, Ménars, June 10, 1881, no. 6; to Rothschild) ; Baron Alphonse de Rothschild , rue Saint-Florentin, Paris (from 1881) ; his wife Baroness Alphonse de Rothschild (until d. 1911) ; her son Baron Édouard de Rothschild (recorded in 1929, d. 1949) ; [ Wildenstein and Co., Inc. , New York (until 1967; sold to MMA) ]