Along with Fragonard and Watteau, Boucher ranks among the most important French artists of the eighteenth century. All three are well represented in the museum’s collection. Boucher was a master draughtsman as well as a painter and printmaker. He made studies for paintings, but also autonomous works of art for the market. Many of his sheets depict female nudes, often the Graces or other goddesses or nymphs, attended by putti. Boucher initially worked from live models in the studio. However, he was a perceptive observer and later drew figures from memory. This sheet was intended as a study, as we see from Boucher’s experiments with the position of the woman’s left arm, the cursory treatment of her hair, and the unfinished left leg. On the far left, he repeated the folds of skin around her waist. That section of the sheet was apparently cropped at a later stage. The fact that the figure is shown on a dolphin suggests that she represents a water nymph. And from the style of the drawing—the animal’s roughly sketched head between the woman’s outspread legs—we may assume that the sheet was a study. However, the motif does not appear in any of Boucher’s known paintings. The explicit eroticism in Boucher’s nude drawings is toned down in his paintings.


  • Title: Female Nude on a Dolphin
  • Date Created: circa 1730 - 1740
  • Theme: Female nudity / Mythology
  • Physical Dimensions: w390 x h307 mm
  • Draughtsman: François Boucher
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: Lent by Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 1940 (Koenigs Collection), http://collectie.boijmans.nl/en/disclaimer/
  • External Link: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
  • Medium: Red chalk, heightened with white, on coarse cream-cloured paper

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