William Bouguereau: Les Oranges
The image of a mother and child is a symbol of universal relevance. It exists and is celebrated within every culture, throughout its respective history. Through iconic works like Les Oranges, Bouguereau has made an enduring contribution to this fundamental canon of imagery and he continues to have a profound impact on how such images are produced and received to this day.
The present painting is among Bouguereau's greatest achievements. His virtuosity is apparent in every element of the painting, which was executed at the height of his genius. His debt to the Renaissance masters is evident here and the religious overtones of this painting are subtly underlined by the inclusion of the oranges, recognized in symbolic terms as a substitute for the apple in the hand of the infant Christ.
In his biography on the artist, Marius Vachon discusses the artist's mother and child paintings, which are greatly instructed by the fifteenth-century Italian paintings of the Madonna and Child. He writes: "From the outset, the paintings of the Italian masters revealed to the artist the beauty inherent in youth, the seduction in a smile, the grace in simplicity. Above all he paints young mothers, with their children. This theme, which had been interpreted in an inexhaustible variety of ways, and always with new eloquence, inspired him to paint works of an infinite charm, in the figure types were generally borrowed from the Italians" (as translated from Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, 1900, p. 90). [Sotheby’s]