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 Bouguereau, William-Adolphe (French painter and draftsman, 1825-1905) , Charity

Core Record

Title Charity
Original Translation La Famille Indigente (first exhibited as)
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Bouguereau, William-Adolphe (French painter and draftsman, 1825-1905)
Date 1865 (dated)
Signed yes
Description Traditionally, Charity was represented as a mother and children but here Bouguereau gives the theme a new twist as the mother and children are, themselves, in need of charity. A destitute family of a barefoot mother and her three young children sit huddled on the lower steps of a grand, classical style church (the Church of the Madeleine, Paris). The symmetry of the pyramidal composition and low viewpoint lend the group a sense of monumentality. The mother's sorrowful gaze toward the viewer is reminiscent of a Madonna and further suggests the idea of a secular altarpiece in which the group of figures take on an allegorical dimension. In the top right hand corner, a poster containing an extract from a sermon on charity by the radical priest Father Lacordaire reiterates Bouguereau's intended meaning. A preliminary drawing for Charity shows a line of Parisian rooftops in the left background. However, the finished painting shows the Campidoglio Palace in Rome, aligning this work with the contemporary vogue for Italian beggar subjects and diminishing the element of social critique for its Parisian audience.
Current Accession Number 1897P11
Former Accession Number P.1197
Inscription front ll (on church step) 'W BOUGUEREAU 1865'
Subject everyday life (beggary); allegory (charity)
Measurements 121.9 x 152.4 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by Charles Harding 1897.
Provenance Purchased from the artist by Durand-Ruel l (stock no. 2930), 1865; Steengracht (dealer), 8 September 1869; Stephen Plummer sale, Christie's, 11 March 1882, lot 147, bought by Wallis, 388 10s; George Simpson sale, Christie's, 18 April 1896, lot 74 as The Indigent Family, bought by Wallis, London; Charles Harding, 1896.
Principal Exhibitions Paris Salon, 1865 as La Famille Indigente, cat. no. 256; Bradford City Museum and Art Gallery, 1910, cat. no. 15; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, 1902, cat. no. 140; William Bouguereau, Petit Palais, Paris, 1984, and tour 1984-85, cat. no. 37; Sacred Bond - Images of Motherhood, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1990; Man and Work in Nineteenth Century Painting at the time of the Rerum Novarum, Vatican, Braccio Carlo Magno, Rome, 1991 - 1992, p. 254; The Development of 19th Century French Art, Ashikaga Museum of Art, 1994, cat. no. 80 (touring); Art Treasures of England: The Regional Collections, Royal Academy, 1998, cat. no. 163; La Nascita dell' Impressionismo, Treviso, Cara dei Carraresi, 2000, cat. no. 24.
Publications Paris Salon, 1865 as La Famille Indigente, no. 256; Bradford City Museum and Art Gallery, 1910, no. 15; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, 1902, no. 140; William Bouguereau, Petit Palais, Paris, 1984, and tour 1984-85, no. 37; Sacred Bond - Images of Motherhood, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1990; Man and Work in Nineteenth Century Painting at the time of the Rerum Novarum, Vatican, Braccio Carlo Magno, Rome, 1991 - 1992, p. 254; The Development of 19th Century French Art, Ashikaga Museum of Art, 1994, no. 80 (touring); Art Treasures of England: The Regional Collections, Royal Academy, 1998, no. 163; La Nascita dell' Impressionismo, Treviso, Cara dei Carraresi, 2000, no. 24.
Notes A 'reduction' of this work, probably painted for the purposes of creating print reproductions, is in the collection fo the Art Association of Richmond, Indiana, 47374.
Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth
 

 

 

 

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