• 19th Century European Painting auction at Christies

    Sale 2547

    19th Century European Paintings

    23 April 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 34

    William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)


    Price Realised  


    William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
    signed and dated 'W. BOUGUEREAU 1870' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    40 x 32½ in. (101.6 x 82.6 cm.)

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    A consummate example of Bouguereau's ability to render tender portraits of children, Pifferaro depicts a young peasant boy holding a piffaro, a double reed woodwind similar to an oboe. This simple instrument would have been the boy's livelihood as he is most likely an itinerant musician. Holding the piffaro gracefully in his left hand, he looks invitingly out at the viewer as if to extend a welcome to his next performance.

    Although images of boys are rare in Bouguereau's oeuvre, perhaps, as Damien Bartoli suggested, because of the artist's difficult relationship with his father, this youth appears in three other works from the same period. In L'Italien à la mandoline (1870), Pifferaro (1874) and Enfant Italien tenant une croûte de pain (1874) (fig. 1), the boy looks languidly off to the side, never engaging with the viewer as he does in the present work. With his flushed plump pink cheeks and sparkling eyes, this lad appears as the very embodiment of youth. A faint smile spreading across his lips, there is a sweet innocence about him that reminds one of the halcyon days of childhood.

    By the time Bouguereau painted Pifferaro, he had already gained considerable recognition in Paris where he regularly exhibited at the Salon. But Bouguereau was born in the countryside and his heart remained there, leading him to spend long stretches outside of Paris painting the monde paysan; the subject for which he is most remembered today. Pifferaro thus represents Bouguereau doing what he loved most, painting the French peasantry, whom he perceived as embodying beauty, purity and hope, the central principles of his artistic philosophy.

    (fig. 1) William Adolphe Bouguereau, Enfant Italien tenant une croûte de pain, 1874, private collection.


    with Goupil, 24 February 1870, acquired directly from the arist.
    M. Mastenbroeck, The Hague, 17 January 1871, acquired from the above.
    Private collection, Holland.
    Derksen Collection, Rotterdam by 1936.
    Private collection, Spain.

    Pre-Lot Text



    C. Vendryès, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1885, p. 45.
    M. Vachon, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 150.
    M. S. Walker, William Bouguereau: A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings, New York, 1991, p. 68.
    D. Bartoli and F. Ross, William Bouguereau: Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work, New York, 2010, p. 131, no. 1870/08.


    Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, William Bouguereau 1825-1905, 9 February - 6 May 1984.