William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)


William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
signed and dated 'W-Bouguereau-1873' (upper right)
oil on canvas
26¼ x 22 1/8 in. (66.6 x 56.2 cm.)
Painted in 1873
Goupil et Cie., Paris, 28 April 1873, as Jeune fille et agneau (buste) (acquired directly from the artist).
Johannes Borski, Amsterdam (acquired from the above).
C. Vendryes, Dictionnaire illustré des Beaux-Arts: Bouguereau,
Paris, 1885, p. 49 as Innocence.
A.C. de Franqueville, "William Bouguereau", Le premier siècle de l'Institut de France, Paris, 1895, p. 370.
M. Vachon, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 151 as Innocence.
M.S. Walker, William Bouguereau - A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings, New York, 1991, p. 69.

Lot Essay

In 1873, simultaneous with the realization of Innocence, Bouguereau completed a larger composition of the same subject matter titled L'agneau nouveau né, (Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachussetts). Despite the fact that a larger version of the present work was completed by the master, Innocence should not be considered a reduction in the typical sense. In this rare opportunity, Bouguereau offers us the reworking of a motif which must have particularly seduced him.

It is evident in Bouguereau's detailed account books that, for the present work, no amount was paid out to a second party. In the case of many other studio reductions and reworkings of larger compositions, which were not infrequent, Bouguereau's account books clearly note the name of the assisting student and the amount paid out to them. Although Innocence displays a pastoral atmosphere, the work was certainly not painted in the artists's country studio at La Rochelle, but entirely painted in his Paris studio. It is very possible, however, that Bouguereau may have drawn preparatory sketches for the lamb in the countryside near Paris.

There are several details that differ between Innocence and L'agneau nouveau ne, principally the depiction and positioning of the girl's head, her right hand and her hairstyle. The same model also appears in other paintings by Bouguereau such as his magnificent work titled Fileuse dating from the same year. Finally, Goupil has included reproductions of both paintings, Innocence and L'agneau nouveau ne in his catalogue for sale, a tribute to the popularity of both images.

We are grateful to Damien Bartoli for providing this catalogue note.

To be included in the upcoming Bouguereau catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Frederick Ross, the Bouguereau Commitee and the American Society of Classical Realism.

More from 19th Century European Art including Barbizon, Realist and

View All
View All