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The Elder Sister, reduction (La soeur aînée, réduction)

William Bouguereau

European Art

This painting portrays a young woman dressed in garments that seem at once rustic and classical, cradling a small child. The title identifies the figures as siblings, but their tender, entwined poses intentionally recall Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child. Such sentimentalized paintings appealed to a bourgeois clientele that appreciated delicately rendered Christian and humble domestic themes.

Many people who bought art for their homes in the nineteenth century preferred paintings such as William Bouguereau’s to those that displayed more radical approaches to brushwork and form. This was partly because their tastes were shaped by the burgeoning upper-middle-class merchant economy, which valued works that appeared fastidiously made over those that looked slapdash. Critics often compared painting techniques to types of labor, likening the polished surfaces and carefully modeled forms of academic painters such as Bouguereau to the delicate products of pastry chefs, and the thick, visible brushwork of avant-garde artists to the rough handiwork of bricklayers
MEDIUM Oil on panel
  • Place Made: Europe
  • DATES ca. 1864
    DIMENSIONS 21 7/8 x 17 15/16 in. (55.6 x 45.6 cm) Frame: 29 3/4 x 25 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (75.6 x 64.8 x 11.4 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed lower right on chest: "W Bouguereau"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Bequest of William H. Herriman
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1918, provenance not yet documented; before 1918, acquired or exhibited by Durand-Ruel, Paris, France; by July 26, 1918, acquired by William Henry Herriman of Brooklyn, NY and Rome, Italy; May 18, 1921, bequeathed by William Henry Herriman to the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION William Bouguereau (French, 1825–1905). The Elder Sister, reduction (La soeur aînée, réduction), ca. 1864. Oil on panel, 21 7/8 x 17 15/16 in. (55.6 x 45.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of William H. Herriman, 21.99 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 21.99_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 21.99_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2015
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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