The French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau concluded the artwork entitled The Madonna of the Roses in 1903, only two years before his death. The painter had gone through significant losses during his lifetime, as he saw four of his five children pass away – the last was Paul, who died after contracting tuberculosis at the age of thirty-two in 1900. In fact, it was the same disease that took the life of his first wife and his other children. Possibly because of the large number of children that the artist had to bare through loosing, that his artworks with infants were so captivating. Bouguereau’s moment of grief resulted in some of his masterpieces, like Pieta and The Virgin of Consolation – all with religious themes.
Bouguereau was inclined to religious and mythological portrayals as he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris – meaning he had an Academic background, influenced by the Renaissance and the ancient Greeks. These themes were highly praised by the academies as well as the Paris Salon, which featured Bouguereau’s work at every exhibit. The painting The Madonna of the Roses is similar to his previous work entitled Virgin and Child, but with much more natural figures and poses.
In The Madonna of the Roses, Bouguereau portrays the Mother of Christ with her blessed son in her lap. Although the artist was classically trained, he took his own interpretation of the scenes. HThe artist portrays an infant Jesus nude, in an almost fetal position and looking directly at the viewer’s eyes, reminding the audience of his humanity. His hands are clenched, and he is featured with pale skin, rosy cheeks, and curly, blond hair. The Madonna is wearing a dark blue dress with red sleeves and ornamented golden edges. A pure white cloth covers her hair and shoulders as a symbol of purity, as she looks up at the sky. Both figures have golden decorated halos as a sign of divinity. The bottom half of the background is filled with rosebushes filled with large red and pink roses. The back wall is golden with arabesque paintings, and there are two Grecian-like columns. Both feature a part in emerald stone, while the top is white marble, engraved with detailed drawings. Bouguereau was able to give real life to these two figures, captivating the audience with its beauty.
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