present painting is a particularly eloquent example of the kind of work the artist, aged thirty-four, was producing at a time when he had fully mastered his technical ability. Nevertheless, he was trying to free himself from the dictums of the fledgling neogrec school which had exploded on to the artistic scene in the 1850s, counting among its ranks young adherents of academicism like Gérôme, Picou, Boulanger, Leroux, and Baudry and whose most ardent champions were Prince Napoleon and the poet Théophile Gautier. His contact with this school, as well as with the Italian masters during his tenure of the Prix de Rome at the Villa Medici in Rome, prevented him initially from expressing his individuality.
Bouguereau was no doubt aware of this shackle to the past and through his own initiatives and research, undertaken with his legendary energy, he was gradually able to emancipate himself from the stiffness of the French Academy. This new freedom is mirrored in Faun and Bacchante, which, while classical in style, anticipates the fantaisies (fantasy pictures) of his future career. Bouguereau shows off his master draftsmanship as evidenced by the bold foreshortening of the bacchante's legs. Rigid academic convention would remain the springboard to the artist's success, although one cannot help but be struck by the almost shameless, and in any case for its day, revolutionary pose of the bacchante. The figure of the faun was no doubt inspired by the Roman statuary Bouguereau had studied with great interest during his stay at the Villa Medici.
Bouguereau chose this painting to represent his achievement at the Salon of 1861 along with Return of the Fields, Portrait of Madame de Quivières (whose family commissioned the painting and were its first owners), Peace and The First Discord. The contemporary critic, Castagnary, in his review of the Salon wrote: "Peace, Return from the Fields and Faun and Bacchante are extremely seductive compositions, in which elegance is perfectly married with good drawing. For it is the drawing, based more, it is true, on an imitation Raphael than on an observation of nature, which is the dominant quality in this painter". A print by Colin was reproduced photographically and published by Goupil in October 1861.
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 Committee and the American Society of Classical Realism.