Reading (1754). Carle van Loo (French, 1705-1765). Oil on canvas. The State Hermitage Museum.

In this idealized bucolic setting, a young beau reads aloud to two young women, who appear entirely enraptured by what he reads. Their governess suspends her needlework in order to listen also. The pleasure given to her by the book perhaps is mixed with fear of the dangerous impression that that book might make on young girls’ hearts.

“The Marquise of Pompadour as a Gardener” (1754-1755) (detail) by Charles-André Van Loo (1705-1765).