- William-Adolphe Bouguereau
- PREMIÈRES CARESSES (Premier RÉduction)
- signed W. BOUGUEREAU (upper left)
- oil on canvas
- 39 1/4 by 26 1/4 in.
- 100 by 67 cm
M. Wallis, London (acquired from the above, September 2, 1866)
H. & P. Casseres, London
Private Collector (acquired from the above in 1910)
Private Collector (acquired from the above, his grandfather, by descent and sold, Sotheby's, New York, October 25, 2005, lot 60, illustrated)
Rehs Galleries Inc., New York
Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above)
Mark Steven Walker, "William-Adolphe Bouguereau, A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings," William-Adolphe Bouguereau, L'Art Pompier, exh. cat., Borghi & Co., New York, 1991, p. 66
Damien Bartoli with Fred Ross, William Bouguereau Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Works, New York, 2010, p. 91, no. 1866/03A,
illustrated p. 90
This work is the half-sized réduction Bouguereau made of the painting he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1866, today in the Lyndhurst Collection, Tarrytown, New York, and measuring 75 by 50 in. (190 by 127.5 cm).
During his early career, Bouguereau was regularly asked to paint réductions of his most important works. Jules Goupil, his exclusive dealer from 1866 onwards, commissioned these réductions 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.
The present réduction served as the blueprint for a chromolithograph measuring 37 1/3 by 24 in. (95 by 61 cm) drawn by Schulz, and printed by Hangard-Maugé for publication by the Goupil Gallery starting in 1868. Unlike many of his later réductions, it is clear that Bouguereau worked alone on the present work. His account books, but more importantly the perfection of line and color, rule out every possibility of the presence of workshop involvement.
The present work clearly shows the influence of Raphäel, whom Bouguereau revered. With his paintings owing as much to the sacred as to the profane, Bouguereau's choice of the simple and innocent lives of Roman peasants as his subjects eloquently served his artistic aims. In Premières Caresses, the parallels between mother and baby and the Virgin and Child are unmistakable. The painting also bears witness to the family values Bouguereau held dear.
Marc de Montifaud in his review of the 1866 Salon wrote of the master composition, "Nothing could be more seductive, more supple, more correct than the fluent lines of Premières Caresses, in which the eyelids of the young woman, so warm in tone and character, have an irresistible softness directed at the naked plump child who has just been lifted from his cradle; his flesh has the qualities of a sculpture, displays a harmony of tonalities, is soft as worked clay, and has a roundness that has nowhere been better observed."