Nymphs and Satyr

Three nymphs playfully drag a Satyr into a woodland pond, while a fourth calls to her companions in the distance. Satyrs—half-man, half-goat—were reputedly unable to swim. Bouguereau exhibited this painting, accompanied by a verse from the Latin poem that inspired it, at the 1873 Paris Salon. Its vaguely classical subject provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate his skill painting the female nude from multiple viewpoints. An American collector immediately bought the work, which eventually ended up on display in the bar of New York City’s Hoffman House, where Sterling Clark first encountered it.

Provenance

The artist, sold to Wolfe, 26 June 1873; John Wolfe, New York (1873–82, his sale, Leavitt & Co., New York, 5–6 Apr. 1882, no. 96, sold to Stokes); Edward S. Stokes, New York (1882–d. 1901); James D. Leary, New York (probably 1901–d. 1902); Daniel J. Leary, New York, his son, by descent (probably 1902–d. 1942); estate of  Daniel Leary (in 1942, sold to Herbert H. Elfers, 5 June 1942, as agent for Clark); Robert Sterling Clark (1942–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau

French, 1825–1905

Nymphs and Satyr

1873

Oil on canvas

102 1/2 x 72 in. (260.4 x 182.9 cm) Frame: 122 1/8 x 90 3/4 x 7 in. (310.2 x 230.5 x 17.8 cm)


Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1942

1955.658


ON VIEW

Bouguereau at the Hoffman House

  Nymphs and Satyr spent twenty years hanging opposite the bar of New York City's Hoffman House Hotel.This colored lithograph of the period gives a sense of how the painting was displayed. The painting was shown beneath a red velvet canopy in the hotel’s bar, where ladies were only permitted once a week. It attracted countless curious visitors, among them William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Ulysses S. Grant, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Sterling Clark. From such surroundings, its image eventually migrated to cigar boxes, matchboxes, plates, urns, and even bathroom tiles. By the 1890s, Bouguereau's masterpiece had reached iconic status, inspiring caricaturists.

. Print mount identifies the printmaker as H. A. Thompson & Wylie.  Created March 1890. Downloaded from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

VIEWS & VOICES

Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, reminisces about the first time he laid eyes on Nymphs and Satyr.

Exhibition Brochure

Click here to read a brochure produced for the exhibition Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr: The Biography of a Painting (1985).

Conservation View

View of painting before 2012 treatment at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Pre-cleaning.