21
21
William Bouguereau
FRENCH
BIBLIS
Estimate
400,000600,000
LOT SOLD. 1,025,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
21
William Bouguereau
FRENCH
BIBLIS
Estimate
400,000600,000
LOT SOLD. 1,025,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

19th Century European Art

|
New York

William Bouguereau
1825-1905
FRENCH
BIBLIS
signed W-BOUGUEREAU (upper right)
oil on canvas
19 5/8 by 31 5/8 in.
50 by 80.5 cm
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We would like to thank Fred Ross and the Bouguereau Committee for providing additional catalogue information.

Provenance

Goupil, Paris (acquired directly from the artist, 1884, no. 17237)
Collection of M.J. Orly (acquired from the above, 1885)
Sale: Nouveau Drouot, Paris, April 7, 1989, lot 239, illustrated

Literature

Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 155 (as Biblis. Réduction)
Damien Bartoli with Frederick Ross, William Bouguereau Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work, New York, 2010, p. 226, no. 1884/09A, illustrated; and in revised 2014 edition, p. 226, no. 1884/09A
Damien Bartoli and Frederick Ross, William Bouguereau, his life and works, New York, 2010, pp. 308-310, illustrated p. 308, pl. 179; and in the revised 2014 edition, pp. 308-310, illustrated p. 308, pl. 179

Catalogue Note

Classical subjects and Greek myths provided Bouguereau with inspiration throughout his career. The resulting narrative paintings were accessible to contemporary audiences and earned him great acclaim as his submissions to the Paris Salon, including compositions such as Nymphs et Satyr (1873, Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown Massachusetts), Flore et Zéphyre (1874, Musée de Mulhouse, France), and La Jeunesse de Bacchus (1884, present whereabouts unknown), painted the same year as the present work, which is the réduction of his Salon submission of 1885, Biblis (1884, Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad, India). The classical subject also provided a veil under which Bouguereau could present the nude, a strategy that many Academic artists employed as well.

In Greek mythology, Biblis, daughter of Miletus, fell in love with her twin brother, Caunus. Though she realized that her feelings were taboo, she could not help but try to woo him and sent him a letter citing examples of incest among the Gods. Repelled and afraid, Caunus fled, driving Biblis mad and prompting her to shed her clothes and chase him through Greece and Anatolia, crying incessantly. Exhausted by grief and sorrow, she collapses, perishes and is transformed by nymphs into a spring, or according to other acccounts, is simply consumed by her tears and becomes a fountain. In either outcome, Bouguereau represents Biblis in her penultimate moment.

Bouguereau writes: “Among my paintings, “Biblis” is one that I love the most, one that I most enjoyed painting; this even though it was inspired by an incident in the atelier. One of my female models had just asked to rest from a tiring pose; when the young woman was in the process of standing up, she instinctively found herself in a pose so beautiful that I stopped her with a gesture and a shout, begging her to hold the pose for just an instant longer. I sketched her immediately, very quickly… I had seen my “Biblis.” It is one of my best paintings” (as translated from the French, Vachon, p. 115).

Bouguereau was regularly asked to paint réductions of his most important works, frequently requested by Jules Adolphe Goupil, his exclusive dealer from 1866 onwards, either to provide print-makers with a more manageable-sized canvas to copy (there was a ready market, especially in America, for Bouguereau's prints), or to satisfy the demands of avid collectors wishing to acquire the no-longer-available original.

19th Century European Art

|
New York