Saturday, April 8, 2017

Femme au Coquillage (1885)

William Bouguereau: Femme au Coquillage

Beginning around 1880, Bouguereau gradually began to favor the production of paintings inspired by Greek and Roman mythology and poetry. He called these pictures Tableaux de Fantasie or Paintings of the Imagination, and retained a fondness for the genre for the rest of his career. Femme au Coquillage, or Girl with a Shell, belongs to the important category of “bathers” which appeared throughout Bouguereau's oeuvre.

This painting offers a credible example of the “anachronistic antique” which was dear to the artist’s heart. Bouguereau gives free rein to sensuality by choosing a superb and original pose for his model, imbued with the classical grace of the Grand Tradition, and offering us his personal interpretation of the Venus Callipyge.

Femme au Coquillage was painted in 1885 in Paris, as a letter from Bouguereau to George Vicens indicates, “Since my return (from La Rochelle), I have placed four paintings at St. Vincent-de-Paul, you know them, then I finished the five paintings from La Rochelle and the two that I commenced in Paris: Love Disarmed and Girl with a Shell.”

This picture marks the second appearance of the young Italian model, Antoinette Cataldi, who had already posed for Bouguereau’s Woman and Captive Love. Admittedly, the artist modified the model’s hair color, but he maintained approximately the same pose. [Sotheby’s]

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