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William Adolphe Bouguereau


French Academic Classical painter, teacher, frescoist and draftsman



280 x 130 cms | 110 x 51 ins
Oil on canvas

Musee d'Orsay

Paris | France

Donated by Bouguereau's descendents to the Musée D'Orsay, Paris, France, 2009

When one looks at The Compassion, 1897, at first glance the viewer may interpret this painting be simply a depiction of Christ on the Cross, with perhaps another saint, or victim. A depiction not too different from thousands of other paintings of the subject; but in fact, the subject of this painting is not simply the event, but the conversion to Christianity through the compassion for the sacrifice Jesus made. The man with his head on Jesus' chest is a representation of every man and mankind as a whole. The man in the painting shows the same empathy and bearing his own symbolic cross, has found his way to Jesus and his own redemption. Many Christians wear crosses around their necks to represent the same conviction, that they too have been sacrificed with Christ. In the bible, when Jesus fell on his way to Calvary, a man from the crowd, Simon of Cyrene, went to Jesus and carried the cross for him, which was the inspiration for this widely accepted symbol. The blood of Christ falls onto his hands, reiterating the blood sacrifice that was made for his benefit. On top of the cross a letter is posted which reads "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" in three languages, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic. Although in many depictions, Christ is crucified at the top of a mountain, Bouguereau chooses to depict the savior on a barren wasteland, symbolic of the man"s spiritual life before finding his way to Christ. Bouguereau chose to keep this painting, which shows the importance his religion played in his own life, and it remained in his studio until its recent donation to the Musèe D'Orsay, Paris, France.
-by Kara Lysandra Ross

Excerpt from the article: William Bouguereau and his Religious Works

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