• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2035

    19th Century European Art and Orientalist Art

    22 October 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 120

    William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)

    La Petite Esméralda

    Price Realised  


    William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
    La Petite Esméralda
    signed and dated 'W BOUGUEREAU 1874' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    35 x 21½ in. (88.9 x 54.6 cm.)
    Painted in 1874.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    This previously unknown work is a slight departure of subject matter for the artist. The subject is Emeralda, the young gypsy who taught her goat tricks in order to earn her subsistence in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre Dame de Paris) by Victor Hugo. The tragic figure of Esmeralda, who meets her end through the machinations of the Church based on charges of which she is completely innocent, is however, typical of the young peasant girls who figure so predominantly in Bouguereau's art. These young girls, whether they be shepherdesses, fisher girls, knitters, beggars or gypsies reflect the artists ideal feminine, and through the genius of the artist are rendered eternal and timeless. Their peasant nature and sometimes misery is taken by Bouguereau and raised to a higher plane simply through the painterly homage of the artist.

    The softened colors and the slight nostalgic smile of young Esmeralda imbues the painting with a sort of melancholy and sadness. Perhaps the young gypsy is thinking of her brave soldier, or perhaps this simply presages the tragedy that is yet to unfold around this poor young girl.

    We are grateful to Damien Bartoli for confirming the authenticity of this work and for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

    This work will be included in the forthcoming Bouguereau catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Fred Ross, the Bouguereau Committee and the Art Renewal Center.


    with Goupil & Cie., Paris, 1874.
    with Wallis & Co., 1874.
    with Goupil & Cie., Paris, 1886.
    with Knoedler & Co., New York, 1886.
    Private Collection.
    with Hammer Galleries, New York, 1946.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Property of a Bahamian Collector


    Goupil & Cie., Brouillards de vente, (titled L'enfant à la chèvre), inventory no. 9321.
    Charles Vendryes, Dictionnaire illustré des Beaux-Arts: Bouguereau, Paris, 1885, p. 51.
    Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 152.
    Mark Steven Walker, William Bouguereau - A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings, Borghi & Co., New York, 1991, p. 69.