William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pieta, Mary Mourning Christ

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For this ambitious religious work, Bouguereau devised a large-scale interpretation of the classic Pietà theme, showing the Virgin Mary mourning the body of Christ. At the center of the composition, consumed by her black veil, Mary cradles her child, entreating the viewer to pity with her gaze. Golden aureoles, resembling the gold-leaf details on Renaissance icons and altar-work, surround the heads of the two central figures, while a group of mourning angels encircles the scene, echoing the central compositional shapes.

A year before completing the painting Bouguereau had suffered the traumatic loss of his teenage son George to a sudden illness. Contemporary correspondence reveals the artist's overwhelming grief at the death, that also seemed to have moved him to create a number of monumental religious works, this one being the most affecting. The golden urn in the foreground bears a faint Latin inscription dedicated to George, including his date of death. In stylistic terms, the art historian Gerald Ackerman has compared Bouguereau's religious works to "the masters of the high Renaissance[.] [Bouguereau] builds compositions out of the movement of strong, well rounded bodies, whose authoritative presence fills the canvases with energy." It is no coincidence that the position of Christ's head and shoulders echo that of Michelangelo's Vatican Pieta (1498-99) sculpture. Bouguereau also paid close attention to detail through his use of color: the rusty, drying blood on the white cloth in the foreground, the reddened eyes of the tearful Virgin, and the green tones of Christ's extremities in decay, all enhance the visual precision.

In 1870s France, religious painting was no longer the dominant genre it had been half a century previously, and the sharp, precise style of Neoclassicism was also under threat, from the advance of Impressionism; it is worth noting that this painting was composed four years after Monet's Impression, Sunrise (1872). However, Bouguereau was no captive of avant-garde fashion, and his personal identification with the Pietà theme allowed him to create a work transcending the cloying sentimentality for which he is sometimes criticized.
Available as a fine art print and as a stretched canvas panel (heavy fine art canvas stretched over 1.5 inch deep edge solid wood frame)

 

All prints are made using archival art stocks and UV pigment inks to give up to 200 years life. Prints are sold unframed and unmounted.


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Size and Printed Materials

Fine art papers are printed without any additional white border Please let us know at the time of ordering if you would like a small additional white border.

Rolled canvas options have an additional white border of approximately 2.5 inches (7cm) on all 4 sides to aid stretching.

Ready to hang canvas panels are stretched on 1.5 inch deep solid pine frames from sustainable forestry sources. The image is mirrored on all 4 sides to give an aesthetically pleasing finish.

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Framing Options - Instructions

We have a wide range of frames in standard sizes and we also make custom size frames.

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