Lot 9
  • 9

William Bouguereau

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • Convoitise 
  • signed W-BOUGUEREAU (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 25 3/4 by 17 3/8 in.
  • 65.4 by 44.1 cm


Goupil, Paris (acquired directly from the artist, November 29, 1866, no. 2507)
Theo van Gogh, Amsterdam and The Hague (acquired from the above, December 30, 1866)
Possibly, J.J. Vandergrift, Pittsburgh
Possibly, Charles Schwab, Pittsburgh
Private Collector, Pittsburgh (possibly acquired from the above circa 1903)
Thence by descent


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 (as deuxième réduction)
Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross, William Bouguereau, New York, 2010, p. 92, no. 1866/04B; and in revised 2014 edition, p. 92, no. 1866/04B (as current location unknown)


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work has not been recently restored. It would look very much improved with a fresh varnish. The canvas has an old lining. The cracking is very slightly raised, but it is recommended that the lining remain. The work is probably slightly dirty. There are retouches in the mountains above the head of the goat and in the darkest line of folds in the mother’s dress. One could arguably retouch a few other of the most noticeable cracks in the darkest colors. However, the picture is certainly 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

By 1866, William Bouguereau had already achieved great commercial success and was receiving frequent commissions, including that year's decorations for the Church of Saint-Augustin and the Bordeaux concert hall. Nonetheless, he submitted two compositions to the Salon of 1866, Premières Caresses and Convoitise. Both received great praise, with critics noting the tenderness of the subject of mother and child and Bouguereau’s flawless execution.  In his review of the exhibition, contemporary journalist Paul de Saint-Victor explained that “it would be difficult to find fault with these two pure and harmonious groups, perfectly drawn in vigorous, mellow hues,” while poet and critic Théophile Gautier wrote “all that M. Bouguereau lacks to win the attention of the crowd is some vitalizing fault” (as translated from the French, Ludovic Baschet, ed., Artistes Modernes, Catalogue illustré des oeuvres de Bougereau, 1885, p. 32-33).  Because Bouguereau’s paintings were so widely celebrated at the Salon, réductions were frequently commissioned by the artist’s savvy dealer, Goupil, to satisfy collectors who wished to acquire the no-longer-available original, or to provide printmakers with a template from which to work. While the present location of the Salon submission of Convoitise remains unknown, the composition survives through two réductions, of which this is one.

With the balanced arrangement of figures, this composition clearly shows the influence of Raphäel, whom Bouguereau revered. Bouguereau's choice of the simple and innocent lives of Roman peasants as his subjects eloquently served his artistic aims of recognizing both the sacred and the profane (see lot 13).  In Convoitise, the parallels between mother and baby and the Virgin and Child are unmistakable; as one critic of Bouguereau’s submissions to the Salon of 1866 wrote, “each woman carries a child, they could be the Virgin with the baby Jesus ; it’s the young John the Baptist who is missing from the composition with the goat” (as translated from the French, Catalogue illustré des oeuvres de Bougereau, 1885, p. 34).

According to family memory, this painting has remained in the family's collection since their purchase of Highmont, a magnificent Gilded Age mansion in Pittsburgh, in 1903. The home was originally built in 1888-9 by oil and gas tycoon and prominent art collector Jacob J. Vandergrift, and the glorious edifice only enhanced the reputation and reknown of the impressive collection within it (Alison McQueen “Private Art Collections in Pittsburgh,” Collecting in the Gilded Age, 1997, p. 100). Vandergrift sold the home along with all of its contents to the steel magnate Charles M. Schwab in 1900, who sold it just three years later, along with its storied collection.