Lot 25
  • 25

William Bouguereau

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
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  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • L'agneau nouveau-né (The Newborn Lamb)
  • signed W-BOUGUEREAU- and dated 1873 (lower left) 
  • oil on canvas
  • 65 by 34 5/8 in.
  • 165.1 by 87.9 cm


Goupil & Cie, Paris, no. 8251 (acquired directly from the artist, July 1873) 
Alexander Turney Stewart, New York (acquired from the above, August 1873)
Cornelia M. Stewart , New York (widow of the above and sold, her estate, American Art Association, New York, March 23-25, 1887, lot 102)
Mrs. J.L. Smith (acquired at the above sale)
The Estate of Zenas Crane 
Mrs. William S. Ginn, née Judith Colt (by descent from the above)
Gifted from the above, 1964


Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America, Philadelphia, [1879-1882], facsimile edition, 1977, vol. I, pp. 43-45, 52, illustrated p. 45
George William Sheldon, Artistic Houses: Being a Series of Interior Views of a Number of the Most Beautiful and Celebrated Homes in the United States With A Description of the Art Treasures Contained Therein, New York, 1883, vol. 1, pt. 1, p. 9, illustrated  (shown hanging in the reception room of Cornelia M. Stewart)
Charles Vendryès, Dictionnaire illustré des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1885, p. 49
Franqueville, William Bouguereau, n. d., p. 151 
Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 151
Louise d'Argencourt and Mark Steven Walker, William Bouguereau, exh. cat., Musée du Petit-Palais, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal; The Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, February 9, 1984-January 13, 1985, p. 108, illustrated p. 109, fig. 35
Arnold Lewis, James Turner and Steven McQuillin, The Opulent Interiors of the Gilded Age, all 203 Photographs from "Artistic Houses," New York, 1987, pp. 35, 39, illustrated p. 34 and as cover (shown hanging in the reception room of Cornelia M. Stewart)
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
Fronia E. Wissman, Bouguereau, San Francisco, 1996, p. 45-6, illustrated pl. 27 (as The Shepherdess
Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross, William Bouguereau, his life and works, New York, 2010, p. 229, illustrated pl. 116; and in the revised 2014 edition, p. 229, illustrated pl. 116
Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross, William Bouguereau, Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work, New York, 2010, p. 150, no. 1873/06, illustrated; and in the revised 2014 edition, p. 150, no. 1873/06, illustrated


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in beautiful condition. The canvas retains a thin old lining, which is still nicely supporting the original canvas and paint layer. The painting is clean and retouched. No abrasion or weakness has developed, and the face, hands, lamb and ewe are all in beautiful condition. There are a few retouches in the darkest color of the skirt beneath the right hand of the figure. A few small cracks have been retouched in the figure's foot in the lower center and in the right edge of the skirt in the center of the painting. There are a few small spots of retouching in the upper right. Under ultraviolet light, one can clearly see remnants of old varnish clinging to the surface, but there is no reason why these should be removed. The work should be hung as is.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

At the age of 20, in 1846, William Bouguereau left his home in Bordeaux to pursue a formal education in the Academic tradition at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In addition to rigorous study of drawing and painting, he studied historical costume and attended dissections in order to gain a deeper knowledge of the body and anatomy. In 1850, he won the coveted Prix de Rome, affording him three years at the Villa Medici and exposure to the work of the Renaissance masters, including Raphael, Titian and Michelangelo, as well as Greek and Roman antiquities. The influence of these masters is evident throughout Bouguereau's career, and particularly so in his Neoclassical Salon paintings of the 1850s and 1860s. His first dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, future champion of the Impressionists, inspired his path to unprecedented commercial success, achieved through the synthesis of monumental historical genre painting with the genre of sentimentality. By granting familiar subjects a heroic dimension he was able to engage a broad audience on both sides of the Atlantic.  Bouguereau was a consummate painter and draftsman and he honed a reputation for unparalleled excellence in his workmanship. In discussing the artist’s process, an American columnist noted that "nothing does he do but paint from dawn until eve, winter and summer. Painting is his society, theatre, vacation. His canvases are his domestic pets. In becoming a master — in preparing to create a whole world of Bouguereau unreality — this gentle woodman starved in Paris in the approved art-student style" (Stuart Oliver Henry, Hours with Famous Parisians, Chicago, 1897, p. 213). The idiosyncratic "world of Bouguereau unreality" had a spectacular allure, particularly for American collectors, whose sustained interest was initially courted by Durand-Ruel, and then further entrenched by his competitor, Adolphe Goupil. Between 1866 and 1887, Bouguereau would sell ten to twelve works per year to Goupil for an agreed upon sum, and Goupil then sold approximately nine out of every ten to dealers outside of France, mostly to Wallis in London and Knoedler in New York. In fact, only eight works painted during this period are recorded by Goupil as having gone into French collections. Americans had an almost insatiable appetite for Bouguereau's work. Made up of entrepreneurs and tycoons, this group of millionaires was eager to decorate their new mansions with iconic compositions that showed a high level of quality and artistic virtuosity. Their taste effectively laid the foundation for museum collections and helped to develop a visual identity for the country.

Among Bouguereau’s devoted American collectors, and the first owner of The Newborn Lamb, was Alexander Turney Stewart, a model for the archetype of the ambitious, self-made American millionaire. Born in Ireland to a working class family, he came to New York City at the age of 20 and used a small inheritance from his grandfather to open a store selling Irish linen and lace. He grew this modest business into the world’s largest retail enterprise, and with personal income of nearly $2 million per year, his fortune positioned him to amass one of the greatest art collections of his time. Stewart sought out “world class” masterpieces, including such monumental and iconic nineteenth century masterpieces as Friedland, 1807 by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (circa 1864-75, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Henry Hilton, 1887), Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair (1852-55, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1887) and Frederick Church’s Niagara Falls, from the American side (1866, National Galleries of Scotland, gift of John S. Kennedy, 1887). Among these masterpieces, Stewart owned three paintings by Bouguereau: Homer and his Guide (fig. 1, Layton Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum), Return from the Harvest (fig. 2, 1878, The Cummer Art Gallery, Jacksonville) and the present work, The Newborn Lamb, from 1873. As Edward Strahan writes in Art Treasures of America, “[Bouguereau] has never achieved greater elevation of quality than in his ‘Nouveau-Né,’ or ‘Newborn Lamb,’ a delicate subject of a sweet-faced shepherdess carrying a lamb, and turning to say soft, reassuring things to the ewe that trots apprehensively beside her” (Strahan, p. 43).

The Newborn Lamb hung prominently in the reception room of Stewart’s Marble Palace, a fifty-five room mansion at the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street which took 500 laborers five years to complete (fig. 3). According to Harper’s magazine, “the building, with scarcely an alteration in the arrangement of its rooms, could be transformed into a magnificent art gallery. It almost astonishes us to hear the architect speak of this as a reception room, of that as a breakfast room, and of another as a parlor. The beautiful wardrobe and bathrooms are the only portions of the house which distinctively suggest the idea of a private residence” (Harper’s Weekly, August 14, 1869, as quoted in Lewis, et al., p. 33). The degree of Stewart’s success in collecting was acknowledged by the Art Journal on the occasion of its sale (March 1887, American Art Galleries, New York) after his widow’s passing in 1886: “The dispersion of the Stewart Collection of pictures in New York brings to an end one of the most famous private galleries of the time. The fact that an American millionaire put it together is significant of a choice stimulated rather than restricted by huge prices, and also significant of a certain modernity of taste and an evident Gallicism” (The Art Journal, 1887, p. 153).

Painted as nearly life-size and set in this vertical picture space in front of a carefully rendered, lush forest, Bouguereau's models are iconic. At the same time, the composition's smooth brushwork erases the presence of the painter, and creates a balance between immobile, static form and rich surface details. The figure and animals in The Newborn Lamb seem to radiate light, for at Bouguereau's hand the secular subject is made sacred. He creates a dream-like universe of peace and serenity that is exquisite and transcendent. While there are no overt religious references in this painting, the image of the shepherdess conjures Mary, mother of Christ, the shepherd. The models face and hands are exquisitely painted, and her bare feet appear firmly planted in the cool earth. While it is not often recognized, Bouguereau is a superb painter of animals, and their expression here is as clearly rendered as their downy coats. Bonheur, who kept a farm’s worth of animal at her atelier in Paris, had lived just down the street from Bouguereau, before escaping the city to her Château de By, and it is possible that Bouguereau used them as models in other works.