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William Bouguereau's Largest Painting Will Highlight Our Impressionist & Modern Art Sales This May

Sotheby’s to Offer the Most Important Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau Ever to Appear at Auction

LA JEUNESSE DE BACCHUS An Icon of French Academic Painting and The Largest Work of William Bouguereau’s Career Is Estimated to Achieve $25/35 Million This May in New York

A Monumental Masterpiece Measuring Over 20 Feet Long and 11 Feet Tall

Presented in 1884 after Two Years of Work, The Painting Emerges from Bouguereau’s Studio in Paris, On Offer from the Direct Descendants of the Artist

NEW YORK, 7 March 2019 – Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that the most important work of French Academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s celebrated career, La Jeunesse de Bacchus, will highlight our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 14 May.

Equally impressive in both scale and technical artistry, the monumental canvas stands an astounding 20 feet in length and 11 feet in height. The work has hung in Bouguereau's studio in Paris since it was completed in 1884 - the culmination of two years of work - and has previously left only three times in its 135-year history: when initially presented at the Salon in 1884, followed by exhibitions in London and Antwerp through 1885, for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889, and as part of a retrospective touring the Musée du Petit-Palais in Paris, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford in 1984-85.

On offer this spring by the direct descendants of the artist, La Jeunesse de Bacchus will carry an estimate of $25/35 million in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. Its appearance in this sale marks the first time that a work by Bouguereau will be offered in Sotheby's marquee evening auctions.

The work will be on be view alongside Sotheby’s Asia Week exhibitions opening 14 March, and again for Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art exhibitions beginning 3 May in the newly expanded and reimagined New York galleries.

Benjamin Doller, Chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, said: “I remember so clearly when I first saw La Jeunesse de Bacchus, at The Wadsworth Atheneum in 1985 that I was struck by the monumentality of the work and the life-size scale of the figures. Not only was I impressed by the size of this great painting, but I was so enamored with the life-like quality of the figures. Technically brilliant, each figure seemed to have its own unique personality. Seeing the painting in Bouguereau's studio, hanging on the very wall where he painted it was an emotional experience for me.  I was attracted once again by the magnetic presence of the central group of dancing figures. Indeed, for a few seconds, I felt they were dancing “in front” of the picture, as if the painting were three-dimensional. When you see the true majestic scale and technical brilliance of this masterpiece, you realize this is one of the greatest pictures painted in the 19th century. Its appearance on the market, something I would have only dreamed of back in 1985, will present a truly singular opportunity to acquire a work that is the last and greatest of its kind.”

Pascale Pavageau, Head of Sotheby’s 19th Century Paintings & Drawings Department, Paris, commented: “The unveiling of this icon invites a dynamic opportunity to consider the past, present and future of this composition – inspired by Classical myth and almost mythical itself. A tour de force of line and color on the grandest scale, every element compels immediate appreciation and close examination. Encapsulating all the brilliant painterly defiance that characterizes Bouguereau’s work, La Jeunesse de Bacchus is the most important painting by the artist ever to come to auction.”

La Jeunesse de Bacchus (Youth of Bacchus) is as rare as it is spectacular; a monumental canvas that is the most ambitious within Bouguereau’s oeuvre. Painted over the course of three years, La Jeunesse de Bacchus captivates the viewer with its striking and magnetic wall power. With influences taken from the Greco-Roman period, classical 17th-century French painting and sculpture, and the work of his contemporaries, the painting records the training, talent and vision of one of art history’s greatest masters.

At the age of 20, in 1846, William-Adolphe Bouguereau left his home in Bordeaux to pursue a formal education in the Academic tradition at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which emphasized scenes from history, literature, the Bible, and classical mythology. 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, as well as the present work.

  • 14.05.2019
    Auktion »
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus »

    La Jeunesse de Bacchus
    Will Highlight Sotheby’s
    On 14 May in New York,
    Marking the First Work by the Artist
    To Be Offered in a Marquee Evening Auction

    **Early Viewing in New York**
    Opening with Sotheby's Asia Week Exhibitions on 14 March

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  • 10067 Bouguereau, La Jeunesse de Bacchus
    10067 Bouguereau, La Jeunesse de Bacchus
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus