Daphnis and Chloe by François Godefroy, after drawing by François-Pascal-Simon, Baron Gérard, ca. 1800. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after drawing by François-Pascal-Simon, Baron Gérard, history and portrait painter and lithographer, 1770-1837
This is an amorous scene and represents the wedding night of Daphnis and Chloe. Daphnis leads Chloe to their wedding bed at the right while Cupid, or "Love," closes the door to their chamber. Outside the door, the musicians who led them to their chamber are lit by torchlight as they serenade the couple with an aulos and a flute.
This image comes from the story of Daphnis and Chloe written by Longus, a Greek writer, in the 2nd century A.D. This pastoral tale takes place on the island of Lesbos where two children, Daphnis (a boy), and Chloe (a girl) are found separately as infants by a goatherd and a shepherd respectively. The boy was suckled by a goat and the girl suckled by a ewe, and each had unusual items, or "tokens," with them when they were found. The children were brought up together and fell in love but, in their innocence, they were unaware of what "love" meant. Various adventures or misadventures throughout their youth bring them together and cause them to be separated. There are prophetic dreams, accidents, rivals for their affections, abductions, and eventual restoration to each other. Eventually, the "tokens" are recognized by members of two aristocratic families, each family having abandoned, or "exposed," the boy and girl at birth. Thus, Daphnis and Chloe discover they are of noble birth and their parents and adoptive parents allow them to marry, with the blessings of Cupid, or "Love," who had them in his special care all along.
This etching represents the wedding night of Daphnis and Chloe at the end of Book IV, the last scene in the last book. This particular etching is plate IX, facing p. 199 in Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et de Chloé. Traduites du grec par Amyot. The translator from the Greek, Amyot, refers to Jacques Amyot, the Bishop of Auxerre (1513-1593). Many deluxe editions of Daphnis and Chloe were published with Amyot's French translation from the Greek. This particular edition of 1800, published by Didot, is distinguished by illustrations designed by the artist Pierre Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823) and Baron Gérard (1770-1837). This etching by François Godefroy (1743-1819) is based on a drawing by Baron Gérard.
This passage from Amyot's French translation from the original Greek text describes the scene in this etching:
And on this day [their wedding day], everyone conveyed them to their nuptial chamber, some playing the flute, others the flageolet, and others carrying lanterns or torches before them. When they were at the door of their chamber, they began to sing 'Hymen' [the god of marriage] in a rude and rough voice, as if with a hoe or pick they wanted to split open the earth. Meanwhile, Daphnis and Chloe lay down nude together in their bed, kissing and embracing each other, without closing their eyes all night, like wood owls; and Daphnis did all that Lycaenion had taught him [about lovemaking]; and Chloe realized that what they did in the woods and fields were mere children's games.
This etching in the Didot edition of Daphnis et Chloé is a very fine impression on heavy white paper. The Miller etching is a less strong impression, especially in the upper corners where the plate shows more wear. The Miller print was surely made from the same plate as that in the Didot edition because the image dimensions are nearly identical, but it may date a little later than 1800 since the image is less strong. It is also printed on a thin, cream-colored laid paper, which is quite different from the heavy stock on which the Didot impression is printed. See 654/M, an etching by Godefroy, after a drawing by Lefebvre.
About the Artists
François Godefroy, engraver, 1743-1819
François Godefroy was born in Rouen and he died in Paris, according to Bénézit. He took part in the Salons from 1798 to 1810 and he copied works after Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and Jean-Baptiste Huet, the elder (1745-1811).
François-Pascal-Simon, Baron Gérard, history and portrait painter and lithographer, 1770-1837
Baron Gérard was a distinguished French portrait painter and illustrator who was born in Rome in 1770 and who died in Paris in 1837. His father was French, an ambassador to Rome, who had married an Italian woman, and Gérard spent his early years in Italy. Gérard came to Paris at age twelve. After a few years of training under several artists, Gérard eventually studied with the neo-classical painter, Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) in 1786. In 1789, he competed for the Prix de Rome, but it was won by Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) and Gérard won second prize. He competed again in 1790 but, due to the death of his father and his mother's wish to return to Rome, he went there with her and his two brothers.
By 1791, Gérard had returned to Paris and, during the Revolution, he avoided service thanks to the influence of David, but he had to serve as a member of the Revolutionary Tribunal. In 1795, he painted in 18 days Belisarius which achieved great success in the Salon of the same year. He also produced illustrations for folio editions of works by La Fontaine (1797), Virgil (1798), and Racine (1801) published by Pierre Didot. The success of Gerard's portrait of the artist, Jean-Baptiste Isabey and his daughter, in the 1796 Salon established his reputation as a portrait painter. His painting, Psyche receiving Cupid's First Kiss, appeared in the Salon of 1798, and was also acclaimed.
During the Empire, Gérard was charged by Napoleon to paint his official portraits, and he won the commission to paint the Battle of Austerlitz which he exhibited in 1810. He also painted the portraits of the entire Bonaparte family, one of the most beautiful of which was a bust-length portrait of Empress Marie-Louise. In addition, Gérard painted foreign princes and other dignitaries from this period. During the Restoration, he was presented to Louis XVIII by Talleyrand. His portrait of Louis XVIII was submitted to the Salon of 1814 and he was named first painter to the king in 1817. He also painted portraits of other members of the royal family, including the duc d'Orléans, the duchesse d'Orléans, the duchesse de Berry, and the duc de Bordeaux.
Gérard received many honors -- Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1802, elected to the Institut in 1812, and made a baron in 1819. He produced over thirty large history paintings and about eighty full-length portraits, plus he made many smaller scale portraits. For his history paintings, he was assisted by Charles de Steuben (1788-1856) and Paulin Guérin. His student, Mlle Marie-Eléonore Godefroid, or Godefroy, (1778-1849), a portraitist, watercolorist, and pastellist, assisted him with his portraits. Gérard's works were engraved or lithographed by many artists -- Toschi, Godefroy, Richomme, Forster, Dickinson and others.
- Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et de Chloé. Traduites du grec par Amyot. Paris: L'Imprimerie de P. Didot, l'aîné, 1800. Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, call no. PA4229.L8F8 1800. [back to article]
- Here is Amyot's French translation (with old French spellings) from the original Greek text of Longus that describes this scene (pp. 199-200): "Et ce jour-là, quand la nuict fut venue, tout le monde les convoya jusques en leur chambre nuptiale, des uns jouant de la fluste, les altres du flageolet, et aucuns portant des fallots et flambeaux allumés devant-eux. Puis quand ils furent à l'huis de la chambre, commencerent à chanter Hymenée d'une voix rude et aspre, comme si avecque une marre ou un pic ils eussent voulu fendre la terre. Cependant Daphnis et Chloé se coucherent nuds dans le lict, là où ils s'entrebaiserent et s'entre-embrasserent, sans clore l'oeil de tout la nuict, non-plus que chat-huants; et feit alors Daphnis ce que Lycaenion lui avoit apprins: à quoi Chloé cogneut bien que ce qu'ils faisoient paravant dedans le bois et emmi les champs n'estoit que jeux de petits enfants." [back to article]
- A synopsis of Daphnis and Chloe by Longus is available online. [back to article]
- The biographical information provided here on Gérard combines material from Bénézit and an article, "François Gérard," by Paul Spencer-Longhurst in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). [back to article]