As Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, gives her blessings, the Three Graces adorn a fresh-faced beauty’s head with a floral crown. Cupid, that mischievous winged god of love, plays at the feet of the three attendants of Venus, offering to them a few sprigs of flowers belatedly to add to the crown.
The Graces, not Venus, crown the initiate.
Only grace can perfect beauty.
In the 18th-century thoughts, grace is what makes a woman interesting and attractive. A merely beautiful woman has all her ideal features, but becomes rather boring after the initial encounter with her. But a graceful woman has that mysterious something (aptly called “je ne sais quoi”–literally meaning “I do not know what”) that pleases other people, keeping them constantly interested in her. She may not be the most ideally beautiful woman, but her vibrant and charming personality, her elegant speech, and her sweet and gentle behavior all render her something greater than simple beauty.
Many think of the French eighteenth century as a century of love, a century of volupté. I’d like to think of it also as a century of grace. A century in search of that elusive quality so essential to all things good in life–beauty, pleasure, happiness, joy. It’s a century of what Claude Jamain calls “le douceur de vivre”–something akin to “la dolce vita,” but with more emphasis on living as a verb. It’s a century in pursuit of the sweetness of living, of grace.
Beauty Crowned by the Graces (La Beauté couronnée par les Grâces)
Simon Louis Boizot (1743-1809)
Manufacture de Sèvres, France
hard-paste biscuit porcelain (fired without glaze)
Photo credit: RMN agence photo