Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin
Daybreak, ca. 1760
Oil on canvas
45.7 x 103.5 cm (18 x 40 3/4 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 38.147
Classical mythology was a favorite source for 18th-century painters, as it was rich in episodes that pitted gods against men in natural settings. This scene, based on an episode from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, recalls the tale of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn who is cursed by Venus with a longing for the love of young mortals. The painting shows the deer hunter, Cephalus, resisting the embrace of Aurora. Although armed with javelin and bow and arrows, the rugged youth is no match for the dazzling captor who has thrown him down upon his own nets. The long, narrow format of the painting suggests that it was designed to be part of an interior decorative scheme and placed over a doorway.