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

Boucles d'oreilles

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Bouguereau, W.-A.
Boucles d'oreilles
signed and dated 'W-BOUGUEREAU-1891' (lower right)
oil on canvas
47 x 30 in. (121 x 77.5 cm.)
Painted in 1889-1890
Sold directly by the artist to Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, 16 January 1890 for 8000 FFr.
J. Markle; sale, American Art Association, New York, 9 March 1934, lot 492 (as 'Dame blanche').
John Levy Galleries, New York.
Ehrich, Newhouse, New York.
Franqeville, Boucles d'oreille, "Le premier sicle de l'Institut," Paris, 1895, p. 370 (under the date 1891).
M. Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 157 (under the year 1890).
Famous Pictures, Chicago, 1917, p. 197.
Reproduced by Braum, Clement & Cie, Paris, no. 3613.

Lot Essay

From the beginning Boucles d'oreilles served as a point of departure from Premiers bijoux (Private Collection), a large scale composition with two figures that Bouguereau had originally intended to be titled Daphnis and Chloe from the two celebrated figures created by Longus. The present painting presents Chloe's in the same attitude as shown in Premiers bijoux, without the figure of Daphnis beside her and was begun either contemporaneously with or slightly before that other painting, probably between 1889 and 1890.

Bouguereau had closely studied classical statuary and the handling of the figure's controposto pose and alabaster skin tone are suggestive of the Caryatids on the Acropolis. According to Damion Bartoli the rendering of the texture and the transparency of skin tones has never been so perfectly realized as with Bouguereau's incarnation of the superb blonde girl of seventeen or eighteen years of age that he poses in the present painting. In his estimation, the artist achieves a realism that is so effective that it captures the veins under the translucency of her skin. The primacy of line and color was central to Bouguereau's painting. In Boucles d'oreilles the contours of her form and the description of her features are given life through the gentle modulation of light and color and convey an overall effect of naturalism to the composition. Bouguereau was known to spend hours sketching the ankle or foot of a model to achieve verisimilitude in the final painting and this attention to detail is evident in the present painting in which even the landscape is painstakingly rendered. The identity of the model is not known, but she was also the inspiration for two of Bouguereau's most important paintings during this period: Premiere reverie (The New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans) and Le travail interrompu (The Mead Art Museum, Amherst).

This work will be included in the upcoming catalogue raisonn on William Bouguereau currently being prepared by Damien Bartoli with the assistance of Frederick Ross, the Bouguereau Committee and the American Society of Classical Realism.

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