The son of Guillaume-Thomas Taraval, appointed artist to the court of Frederick I of Sweden, Hugues Taraval after his father’s death studied at the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Pierre (ca. 1713 – 1789). A member of the Royal Academy since 1769 and inspector at Gobelins since 1783 was one of the artists who contributed to the large decorative projects carried out during the reign of Luis XVI. His favourite subjects include the love affairs of Aphrodite, such as the one with Adonis.
A youth of incomparable beauty, Adonis, the son of Smyrna, one of Aphrodite’s favourite lovers, was mortally wounded by a boar during a hunt. The work captures the moment when Aphrodite, accompanied by a cupid and two swans, discovers in shock her lover’s dead body lying on the ground, next to his two hounds. The diagonal composition, the spiralling pose of the goddess and the swans, the vestments flying back with the speed of the descent, the pink hues on the flesh and clothing, all add an air of lightness to the event, in spite of the dead body in view and the surprise, anxiety and terror evident in the faces of Aphrodite and the cupid. Even though a forgotten artist today, Taraval is a typical example of 18th-century court painting in France.