Lot 428
  • 428


600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • After William Bouguereau
  • Bacchante
  • signed W- BOUGUEREAU- and dated 1894 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 60 1/4 by 35 1/4 in.
  • 152.4 by 89.5 cm


Arthur Tooth & Sons, London (acquired directly from the artist, December 1894, as Automne)
David Whitney, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
William Lucking, Detroit, Michigan
Private Collection, Detroit, Michigan (by descent from the above)
Sale: DuMouchelle Art Gallery, Detroit, date unknown
Dr. and Mrs. Edward S. Smyd, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan (acquired at the above sale)
The Detroit Institute of Arts (donated from the above in 1977 and sold, Sotheby's, New York, November 3, 1999, lot 50, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale 


Flint, Michigan, Flint Institute of Arts; Grand Rapids, Michigan, Grand Rapids Art Museum; Midland, Michigan, Midland Center for the Arts; Muskegon, Michigan, Hackley Art Museum, The Figure in 19th Century French Paintings: A Loan Exhibition from the Detroit Institute of Arts, December 22, 1978-April 30, 1979, no. 17


Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 158
"Annual Report," Bulletin of the DIA, Detroit, 1977-78, vol. 56, no. 5, p. 277, illustrated fig. 12
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 and Frederick C. Ross, William BouguereauCatalogue Raisonné of his Painted Works, New York, 2010, p. 294, no. 1894/13, illustrated p. 295; and in the revised 2014 edition, p. 294, no. 1894/13, illustrated p. 295


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is well stretched on a mechanical stretcher. The canvas has a modern lining. The paint layer is stable. The painting has been selectively cleaned, leaving some old varnish in the darker areas as well as in the flesh tones. The original varnish has become milky in the dark shadows at the bottom right of the composition and should be addressed. Under ultraviolet light, there is a 1 inch diameter restoration in the white background near the figure's chin. There are a few other small retouches in the white background behind the figure's head. There are a few other very small restorations on the edges, and one in the cloth near the figure's knee.
"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

Greeting the viewer with a raised goblet of wine, this beautiful model revels in the iconographic tradition of Maenads, or Bacchantes, as envisioned by William Bouguereau’s distinctive imagination. These mythological women were frequent subjects among nineteenth century artists who favored them for their intrinsic eroticism and ecstatic youthfulness. However, at the sober hand of Bouguereau, she is hardly a lascivious fury inebriated by wine.  Yet with her invitingly gracious demeanor, she is easily identified as a Dionysian devotee along with two unmistakable symbols: the ivy wreath on her head, a reminder of her connection to wine and revelry, and the thyrsus she holds in her right hand, a pinecone topped staff originating in Attic vase painting as a symbol of Bacchus.In April 1892, Bouguereau travelled to London to organize an exhibition of paintings by French artists at the Royal Academy. In addition to visiting museums, he inevitably frequented the galleries of Arthur Tooth (for whom Bouguereau painted this work) and Thomas McLean. The work of his English contemporaries must have made an impression upon him and particularly the iconic compositions of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and John William Godward, whose meticulously researched depictions of the sun-drenched Mediterranean were populated by "Victorians in Togas." Trying his hand with the subject two years later in the present Bacchante, Bouguereau’s treatment is unmistakable. His naturalistic interpretation is rendered in heroic proportions, a secular goddess who implies an unbroken continuum of idealized women from antiquity to his own time.

The painting belongs to a series the artist referred to as "fantasy paintings," a theme that the artist established through earlier works that illustrate Classical narratives such as La jeunesse de Bacchus (1884, Private Collection, Paris) or Nymphes et Satyre  (1873, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown). The model, an Italian girl who frequently appears in Bouguereau’s compositions between 1894 and 1895, posed for several such “fantasies” including a companion painting to the present lot, Prêtresse de Bacchus  (1894, Private Collection), as well as Souvenir (1894, location unknown), and Le secret (1894, Private Collection, United States). 

Bacchante was widely popularized in the form of four photographs published by Braun & Clément, and the painting was reproduced in outline for an amusing advertisement for Mariani wine. In it, the amphora has been replaced by a bottle, with the accompanying motto written in Bouguereau’s hand: “as pleasant as it is salutary, Mariani wine lends health to the body and cheerfulness to the spirit.”