Boucher won the prix de Rome in 1723, but he did not leave for Rome until 1727, when he was accompanied by his lifelong friend Carle Van Loo. In 1737 he was approved by the Académie, and he was received as academician three years later on the basis of his Rinaldo and Armida, now at the Louvre. Under the protection of Madame de Pompadour, Boucher, after the death of Van Loo in 1765, was finally named first painter to the king.
Among the official commissions that Boucher was assigned, are the ceilings in the Queen’s Chamber at Versailles (1735, in situ), the Crocodile Hunt and the Tiger Hunt for the Petits Appartements du Château (Amiens, Musée de Picardie); he also worked for the King to complete his Library in Paris, for Choisy and for the Dauphin at Versailles. For Madame de Pompadour Boucher executed some decorations for the dining room at Fontainebleau, tapestry works for La Muette, as well as works for Bellevue and Crécy. Boucher’s art exemplifies a change in French taste from the grandeur of Louis XIV classicism to an intimate and sometimes exotic manner, though as his male académies show, ‘he was capable of creating forms of enormous power.’ (Rubin, p.53)
From 1737, the year in which he was made as professor at the Académie, to 1765 when he became its director, Boucher did numerous studies of male nudes for his students to copy. Boucher himself had two of them engraved and many more series dedicated to engravings of his nudes were published, notably one by Louis-Félix de la Rue, Livre d’Académies dessinées d’après le naturel par François Boucher du Roy. Some of these studies were reused for his paintings, such as an académie in black chalk, now at the National Gallery in Washington, reappears as Apollo in The Rising of the Sun, now at the Wallace Collection, London.
The model for this drawing can be found in several other male académies by Boucher, notably two closely related drawings in a private collection in London, and one in the Cailleux collection. The latter relates to the figure of Vulcan in Venus and Mars surprised by Vulcan, now at the Wallace Collection, which has been dated to around 1754, the two earlier mentioned studies to between 1748 and 1755. This drawing probably dates from the same period.