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  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
    Nov 30, 1825 - Aug 19, 1905
  • The Birth of Venus - William-Adolphe Bouguereau was a French academic painter and traditionalist. In his realistic genre paintings he used mythological themes, making modern interpretations of classical subjects, with an emphasis on the female human body. During his life he enjoyed significant popularity in France and the United States, was given numerous official honors, and received top prices for his work.
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The Birth of Venus
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  • The Birth of Venus

  • William-Adolphe Bouguereau
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  • circa 1879
    Oil on canvas
    300 cm x 218 cm (120 in x 86 in)
    Musée d'Orsay, France.

    The Birth of Venus (French: La Naissance de Vénus) is one of the most famous paintings by 19th-century painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It depicts not the actual birth of Venus from the sea, but her transportation in a shell as a fully mature woman from the sea to Paphos in Cyprus. She is considered the epitome of the Classical Greek and Roman ideal of the female form and beauty, on par with Venus de Milo.

    At the center of the painting, Venus stands nude on a scallop shell being pulled by a dolphin, one of her symbols. Fifteen putti, including Cupid and Psyche, and several nymphs and centaurs have gathered to witness Venus' arrival. Most of the figures are gazing at her, and two of the centaurs are blowing into conch and Triton shells, signaling her arrival.

    Venus is considered to be the embodiment of feminine beauty and form, and these traits are shown in the painting. Her head is tilted to one side, and her facial expression reflects that she is calm and comfortable with her nudity. She raises her arms, arranging her thigh-length, brown hair, swaying elegantly in an "S" curve contrapposto, emphasizing the curves of her body.

    The model for Venus was Marie Georgine, princess of Ligne. In 1861, she was on a short holiday in Paris with her lover. Together, they modeled for Bouguereau's "Abduction of Psyche" and "Flora and Zephyr". He worked out Venus and other sketches and paintings later from photographs he took of the couple. Some of Bouguereau's other works, like La Nuit, are also based on her. Marie was also painted by Léon Bonnat and photographed by Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon.

    Venus' figure was enlarged from a nymph from Bouguereau's The Nymphaeum, completed in 1878, a year earlier. The nymph is slightly thinner, and her breasts are fuller and more rounded. Venus' contrapposto is more intense, and her hair is also longer and lighter than the nymph's, but she arranges it almost identically.

    To the upper-left of the painting, there is a shadow in the clouds. It appears to be the silhouette of the artist, with a head, shoulder, arm, and a raised fist that would seem to hold a paintbrush.

    Why settle for a paper print when you can add sophistication to your rooms with a high quality 100% hand-painted oil painting on canvas at wholesale price? Order this beautiful oil painting today! that's a great way to impress friends, neighbors and clients alike.

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Other paintings by William-Adolphe Bouguereau:

Petite Boudeuse (The Little Sulk)
Petite Boudeuse (The Little Sulk)
Little Thieves
Little Thieves
Little Beggar
Little Beggar
The Shepherdess
The Shepherdess
William-Adolphe BouguereauWilliam-Adolphe Bouguereau was a French academic painter, he was born in La Rochelle.

A student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he won the Prix de Rome in 1850 and his realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were exhibited at the annual exhibitions of the Paris Salon for his entire working life. Although he fell into disregard in the early 20th century, due perhaps to his staunch opposition to the Impressionists, there is a new appreciation for his work. In his lifetime, Bouguereau painted eight hundred and twenty-six paintings.

In his own time, Bouguereau was considered to be one of the greatest painters in the world. In 1900, his contemporaries Degas and Monet reportedly named him as most likely to be remembered as the greatest 19th century French painter by the year 2000, although with Degas' famous trenchant wit, and the aesthetic tendencies of the two Impressionists, it is possible the statement was meant as an ironic comment on the taste of the future public. Bouguereau's works were eagerly bought, at high prices, especially by American millionaires. After about 1920, Bouguereau fell into disrepute. Some assert this may have been consciously engineered by the new "art expert establishment", who resented his former opposition to new developments in painting, but it is likely that more profound societal factors were instrumental to this enormous shift in taste and sensibility. For decades, his name was not even mentioned in encyclopedias. Today, over one hundred museums throughout the world exhibit his works.

At a rather advanced age, Bouguereau was married for the second time, to fellow artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, one of his pupils. He also used his influence to open many French art institutions to women for the first time, including the Academie francaise.

He died in La Rochelle.