A pupil of Francois-Edouard Picot, Cabanel was one of the leading academic, or pompier, artists of the nineteenth century, along with Bouguereau and Gérôme. He is perhaps most renowned for his masterpiece The Birth of Venus, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1863 and now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. His immaculately drawn figures were popular with collectors on both sides of the Atlantic even during his lifetime, and he also painted portraits of many of America's most affluent citizens, most notably Catherine Lorillard Wolfe of New York.
Octave Mirabeau wrote that Cabanel had "a hand accustomed to the conjuring up of forms, to tracing distinctive lines, the soul of a Prix de Rome winner with the eye of a photographer. Such is M. Cabanel." Indeed, along with Gérôme, Cabanel was a determined opponent of the Impressionists, remaining faithful to the academic manner until his death. The subject of the present work may be seen as a conscious statement to this effect: with its stylistic affinities to the fifteenth century, Cabanel was perhaps paying homage to the Renaissance masters he so admired.
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