L'Amour au Papillon

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William Adolphe Bouguereau


French Academic Classical painter, teacher, frescoist and draftsman

L'Amour au Papillon

Cupid with a Butterfly


168 x 117 cms | 66 x 46 ins
Oil on canvas

Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross

| United States

"Cupid sits to rest on the edge of a fountain with his arrows laid beside him. He is tenderly and carefully removing a butterfly from his arm, symbolizing the tenderness and care needed to keep relationships strong. The flowing water behind him might represent the flow of time and how each moment must be treasured, especially during one's childhood. Since Cupid is depicted as a child in this work, the painting is also making the statement that Mankind must nurture and take care with the wings of its children with tenderness, just as Cupid takes great care with the wings of this butterfly. Often ridiculed for his paintings of Cupid, Bouguereau's detractors fail to see the celebration of life and humanity which is the focus in so many of his works."

-- by Kara Ross

According to Damien Bartoli, Knoedler purchased this work directly from the artist June 2, 1888, during a visit to the artist's studio, even before it was finished and paid 15,000 francs.

This work is truly a celebration of childhood and beauty. Cupid takes great care not to damage the wings of his butterfly. Implicit to the 19th century audience was the quite progressive message for that day and age, that it's the duty of parents and society to nurture and care for the wings of our children so that they too may fly freely undamaged. It was the artists and writers of the day that carried the liberal message of righting the wrongs of prior eras, and codifying cultural advances like child labor laws and charity and welfare for the poor and downtrodden as seen in so many of the social realists of the day. Bouguereau took the positive side of that goal, and elevated the lowest of the low in society, the gypsies and peasants, to the heavens, painting them both real and ideal at the same time. So too was his similar goals with his mythological works like this cupid who is presented to us as a real but incredibly beautiful child.

M. Knoedler (acquired from artist in 1888)
Goupil and Co. New York
Isabel van Wie Willys (formerly Mrs. John Willys)
(sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, October 25,1945 lot # 8.
Findlay Galleries (acquired at above sale)
William Findlay (sale Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc., New York, March 2, 1967, lot 104 as L'amour et papillon)
Galt Galleries (acquired at above sale)

Literature: Marius Vachon, W. Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 156

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