Lot 12
  • 12

William Bouguereau

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • L'Amour piqué
  • signed W-BOUGUEREAU- and dated 1894 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 45 7/8 by 24 5/8 in.
  • 116.5 by 62.5 cm


Arthur Tooth & Sons, Paris (possibly acquired directly from artist)
Sale: Sotheby's Parke Bernet, Los Angeles, April 9, 1973, lot 205, illustrated (as Love's Message)
Schweitzer Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above (circa 1980)


Marius Vachon, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 158 (as Love Pricked by a Thorn)
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. 74
Damien Bartoli with Frederick C. Ross, William Bouguereau, New York, 2010, p. 291, no. 1894/07, illustrated; and in revised 2014 edition, p. 291, no. 1894/07


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: The canvas has an old lining. The surface is stable. The delicate paint layer is un-abraded. However, some fairly thin cracks have developed, some of which have received delicate retouches. Almost all of these are confined to the dark areas in the background. The work is clearly in lovely condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The theme of love is pervasive in Bouguereau's oeuvre, particularly as personified by Cupid, the mischievous son of the goddess Venus, whose famous arrows possessed the power to ignite romantic love. Bouguereau explored many different interpretations of the mythological figure and must have recognized the popular appeal of such imagery, devoting at least ten paintings to the subject: at times shown as a young man with his lover, as in Amour et Psyché (sold in the rooms, Friday, April 23, 2010, lot 63), and in other cases depicted on his own as a child, as in L’Amour piqué. Bouguereau light-heartedly exposes the dichotomy of the young god — at once innocent with a sweet, angelic expression, his flaxen curls framed by a soft halo of light, yet equally sneaky as he clasps his bow and keeps a quiver of arrows at his feet. Perhaps gazing toward his next unsuspecting victim, the young Cupid is seated in a lush woodland interior, a perfect hiding place for the precocious child.  

Beginning in the 1880s, Bouguereau increasingly found inspiration in Greco-Roman mythology.  His major compositions from this period envisioned a realm of peace and harmony populated with legendary heroes, gods and demigods. While the artist explored a new, somewhat fantastical subject matter in the 1890s, his compositions — such as the present work — still revealed decades of devotion and adherence to the principles of Academic painting. Among the many famous images of Cupid within Bouguereau's oeuvre, there is the aforementioned series of Amour et Psyché, as well as L'Amour au Papillon (sold in these rooms, October 23, 2001, lot 37), Amour à l'affut (sold in these rooms, April 23, 2010, lot 66) as well as L'Amour à l'épine (sold in these rooms, October 29, 2002, lot 40) which features the same model for L'Amour piqué