Lot 8
  • 8

William Bouguereau

500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • Après le bain
  • signed W-BOUGUEREAU- and dated 1875 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 70 by 34 7/8 in.
  • 178 by 88.5 cm


Goupil (acquired directly from the artist, February 27, 1875, no. 9678)
Wegner & Son (acquired from the above)
King William III of the Netherlands (acquired from the above)
J. Allard
Goupil (acquired from the above, May 18, 1926)
Clermont-Tonnerre (acquired from the above, June 11, 1926)
Private Collection, and sold: Sotheby's, London, November 22, 1988, lot 30, illustrated
Private Collection


Paris, Salon, 1875, no. 274 (as Baigneuse)


Charles Vendryès, Dictionnaire illustré des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1885, p. 51
Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 152
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. 69
Damien Bartoli and Frederick Ross, William Bouguereau, Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work, New York, 2010, p. 162, no. 1875/01, illustrated; and in revised 2014 edition, p. 162, no. 1875/01 (with incorrect provenance)

Catalogue Note

It was not unusual for Bouguereau to submit a variety of works to the Paris Salon, seizing the opportunity to reach and hopefully appeal to the broadest possible audience. In 1875, he submitted three works, including the mythical Flore et Zéphyre, the religious La Vierge, L’enfant Jésus et Saint Jean Baptiste, and the present work, Après la Bain, then titled La Baigneuse. Each painting represented singular strengths within Bouguereau’s artistic quiver, and Après le bain is undoubtedly one the artist’s finest nudes.

After being sold by Bouguereau’s powerful dealer, Goupil,  Après le bain swiftly joined the collection of the Dutch King William III, who acquired it for the royal palace of Loo. The following year, in May, 1876, the King invited Bouguereau and other artistic greats such as composer Franz Liszt and artists Jean-Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel, to join him at the palace and Bouguereau describes the experience in a letter to his wife, Nelly:

“Gérôme and Cabanel are hastening our departure, and I intend to take advantage of this; for however pleasant and gracious our stay here, now that we have paid our respects and they have been accepted, I am impatient to return to my family and studio… The King is charming, as kindly as could be, with special affection for the French, and for artists especially. We are twelve guests here… Our time is particularly poorly divided. Until midday we are left completely free, and then we sit down to lunch with the King. This lasts rather long, for on Friday we were there till 3 o’clock. A little stroll with the King, and conversation until 5 o’clock; evening dress and dinner from 7 to 10, with both instrumental and vocal music in His Majesty’s little theater. At 10 we return to the salons, and by 11:30 or midnight everyone is in bed. Yesterday the King presented me with a signed photograph of himself. I think it is the only autograph I shall be able to bring back to my dear Zézette, to whom I am most grateful for serving as my general secretary. Cabanel has been made a Commander in one of His Majesty’s Orders; as for myself, nothing has been mentioned, so I may well come home a Chevalier as before; but you will understand that there is nothing I can do about that.” (as quoted in Bartoli and Ross, William Bouguereau: His Life and His Works, New York, 2014, p. 241)

Bouguereau later asked for the King’s permission to borrow Après le bain and include it in the exhibition at L’Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878. To his great surprise, the King refused the request, asserting that this was his favorite painting and that he was deterred by the risks involved in transporting it.

Many of Bouguereau’s nudes frequently lean on classical motifs or mythological narratives (see lot 21) while Après Le Bain simply presents, albeit beautifully, a bathing figure. The subject allows him to demonstrate his extraordinary skill as a draftsman, the arc and fullness of her form clearly drawn from the Rennaissance masters whom he so admired during his time in Italy. The model’s subtly exaggerated contrapposto creates a beautiful contour, as seen in the sinuous line leaving her eyes descending directly to her raised toe. Set against a coastal landscape, it is clear that the artist saw this as a tour-de-force, and likely contributed to his election to the Académie des Beaux Arts that year, after twelve previous attempts.