Charles Amable Lenoir became a star pupil of William Bouguereau’s at the Académie Julian in 1882, a year after he had enrolled in the École des Beaux Arts. While many other artists passed through Bouguereau's atelier, few remained as faithful to their master’s teachings as Lenoir. Louis Tider-Toutant, a close friend of both artists and curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in Niort, explains:
In Bouguereau’s studio I became acquainted with his principal pupils, who were already successful painters. Among them I met... Charles Lenoir... After attracting attention by his genre paintings, which, at the age of 40 still had not made him fashionable, Lenoir set to work to 'paint Bouguereaus,' successfully earning an income for himself, while excelling in portrait painting.
—La Gazette d’Aunis, November 26, 1934, as quoted in Damien Bartoli and Frederick C. Ross, William Bouguereau, his life and works, New York, 2010, p. 482).
In the same spirit as Bouguereau’s most cherished paintings, Lenoir’s portrayal of a young peasant girl, far removed from the realities of an increasingly industrialized France, is a virtuoso example of French Academic painting. In Portrait of a Girl with Mimosa Blossoms, the figure holds the eponymous mimosa flower, a symbol of sensitivity in western culture. This plant, originally brought to Europe from the southern hemisphere, bloomed in January and February and, in the midst of winter, was a cheerful, welcome promise of spring. Bouguereau painted a very similar composition of a bust-length young girl holding the sunny yellow flower in 1899, two years before the present lot (William Bouguereau, Mimosa, 1899, offered in these rooms on May 4, 2012, lot 23).