cover image Loves of the Gods

Loves of the Gods

Rizzoli, Colin Bailey. Rizzoli International Publications, $75 (587pp) ISBN 978-0-8478-1521-0

The amorous exploits of the gods and their mortal lovers provided 18th-century French painters with an opportunity to depict the female nude and please their wealthy Parisian patrons. Aside from their technical mastery and sheer beauty, the pictures reproduced in this hefty catalogue may tempt readers to dip into Homer or Ovid to better grasp the moral allegories that unfold in the works of Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, David and 23 other artists. Bailey, senior curator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Tex., and organizer of the traveling exhibition, focuses on the flowering of mythological art under Louis XV, stressing the erudition and inventiveness of painters often too readily dismissed as frivolous or decorative. With 100 color plates, 359 halftones and essays by six scholars, this tome brings to light an art that even today startles with its daring intensity and radiant harmonies. (May)