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William-Adolphe Bouguereau
French, 1825 - 1905

Young Priestess, 1902
French Painting
Oil on canvas
71 1/4 x 32 in. (181 x 81.3 cm)

Gift of Paul T. White in memory of Josephine Kryl White,  73.1

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About the Object

Bouguereau's idealized figures, with their realistically-rendered surfaces and painstaking level of finish, show a technical mastery that still astonishes.  Here the fluid fabrics of the priestess's garments and the drapery behind her contrast sharply with her pale flesh and the stone mosaic of the floor.  The lack of context invites viewers to provide the figure with a narrative.  This painting, completed when the artist was almost 80, demonstrates a return to the themes of classical antiquity that had been mainstays of his youthful work.

Bouguereau had a typical Academic education: he studied anatomy, classical literature and archaeology along with drawing and painting, and spent a year in Rome where he took inspiration from Renaissance artists.  A member of the Academy throughout his career, his paintings were regularly included in the annual Salon exhibitions.  

[Gallery label text, 2011]