A Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros

Object Details


A Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros


William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825 - 1905)




about 1880


Oil on canvas


81.6 x 57.8 cm (32 1/8 x 22 3/4 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of J. Paul Getty

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A young nude woman sits with her arms outstretched, pushing away a winged boy. He is Cupid, the god of love, holding up an arrow to pierce her. The title suggests that the young woman is trying to defend herself, yet she smiles and struggles unconvincingly against the mischievous little god.

Visitors to the Paris exhibitions of the 1870s and 1880s loved Adolphe Bougereau's paintings. The Getty Museum's painting repeats a larger composition that Bougereau made for the Paris Salon in 1880; a viewer probably saw the larger version there and requested a smaller one for private viewing.

Bougereau placed his mythological fantasy in an idyllic, Arcadia-like landscape. In fact, he made this composition in his studio, copying the landscape from the neighboring French countryside and using one of his favorite models.

1880 - 1882

Adolphe Goupil, 1806 - 1893, purchased from the artist, 1880; sold to Samuel Putnam Avery, 1882

1882 - possibly 1882

Samuel Putnam Avery, Sr., 1822 - 1904 (New York, New York), possibly sold to Williams & Everett, 1882.

possibly 1882 -

Williams & Everett (Boston, Massachusetts)

- 1917

Mrs. Augustus Kountze [sold, American Art Association, New York, April 16-17, 1917, lot 164, through R. H. Lorenz to Henry Walters]

1917 - 1931

Henry Walters, American, 1848 - 1931 (New York, New York), by inheritance to his wife, Sara (Green) Walters, 1931.

1931 - 1941

Mrs. Sara (Green) Walters (New York, New York) [sold, Mrs. Henry Walters sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, May 1, 1941, lot 1211, through Duveen Brothers, Inc. (London, England; New York, New York) to J. Paul Getty]

1941 - 1970

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Malibu, California; Sutton Place, Surrey, England), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1970.

The Impressionists and the Salon (1874-1886) (April 16 to June 20, 1974) (Cat. 7)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles), April 16 to May 12, 1974
  • University of California at Riverside Art Gallery, (Riverside), May 20 to June 20, 1974
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (December 13, 1974 to March 29, 1975) (Cat. 17)
  • New York Cultural Center, (New York), December 13, 1974 to February 2, 1975
  • The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, February 15 to March 29, 1975
In The Studios of Paris: William Bouguereau & His American Students (September 17, 2006 to May 27, 2007) (Cat. 5)
  • Philbrook Museum of Art, (Tulsa), September 17 to December 31, 2006
  • Appleton Museum of Art, (Ocala), February 9 to May 27, 2007
Becoming Van Gogh: His Years in Paris, 1886-1888 (October 20, 2012 to January 20, 2013) (Cat. 2)
  • Denver Art Museum, (Denver), October 20, 2012 to January 20, 2013
Bouguereau's 'Fancies': Allegorical and Mythological Works by the French Master (January 27 to April 19, 2015) (Cat. 2)
  • Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, (Palm Beach), January 27 to April 19, 2015

Baschet, Ludovic, ed. Catalogue illustré des oeuvres de W. Bouguereau (Paris: Librairie d'Art, 1885), p. 61.

American Art Association, New York. Illustrated Catalogue of Highly Important Old and Modern Paintings of Sterling Artistic Distinction [...]. April 16-17, 1917, lot 164, ill.

"Art and Book Sales. Wilson and Other Picture Sales." American Art News 15, no. 28 (April 21, 1917), p. 9.

Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York. The Mrs. Henry Walters Art Collection. Volume Two: English, French & Other Paintings [...]. April 30-May 3, 1941, p. 378, lot 1211, ill.

Isaacson, Robert. William-Adolph Bouguereau, exh. cat. (New York: New York Cultural Center, with Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1974), pp. 16, 26, no. 17, ill.

The Impressionists and the Salon (1874-1886), exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1974), unpaginated, no. 7, ill., entry by Patricia Sears Plumb.

Isaacson, Robert. "The Evolution of Bouguereau's Grand Manner." The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 62 (1975), pp. 77, 83n20, fig. 4.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), p. 71.

Hattis, Phyllis. Four Centuries of French Drawings in The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1977), pp. 226, 232, under no. 207, fig. 207a.

Avery, Samuel P. The Diaries 1871-1882 of Samuel P. Avery, Art Dealer (New York: Arno Press, 1979), p. 665.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 78, ill.

Zafran, Eric M. French Salon Paintings from Southern Collections, exh. cat. (Atlanta: The High Museum of Art, 1982), p. 58, under no. 8.

D'Argencourt, Louise, et al. William Bouguereau, 1825-1905, exh. cat. (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1984), p. 219, under no. 92, entry by Louise d'Argencourt.

Brooks, Peter. "Storied Bodies, or Nana at Last Unveil'd." Critical Inquiry 16 (Autumn 1989), pp. 24-25, fig. 17.

Brooks, Peter. "Le corps-récit, ou Nana enfin dévoilée." Romantisme, no. 63 (1989), pp. 79, 83, fig. 14.

Gilman, Sander L. Sexuality. An Illustrated History Representing the Sexual in Medicine and Culture from the Middle Ages to the Age of AIDS (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1989), pp. 246-47, pl. 267.

Walker, Mark Steven. "William-Adolphe Bouguereau: A Summary Catalogue of the Paintings." In William-Adolphe Bouguereau: L'Art Pompier, exh. cat. (New York: Borghi & Co., 1991), p. 71.

Brooks, Peter. Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 146, fig. 20.

Van Hook, Bailey. Angels of Art: Women and Art in American Society, 1876-1914 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), p. 33, fig. 11.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 15, ill.

Mahon, Alyce. Eroticism & Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 21-23, fig. 5.

Peck, James, et al. In the Studios of Paris: William Bouguereau & His American Students, exh. cat. (Tulsa, OK: Philbrook Museum of Art, with Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 98-99, pl. 5.

Penot, Agnès. "The Goupil & Cie Stock Books: A Lesson on Gaining Prosperity through Networking." Getty Research Journal, no. 2 (2010), p. 177.

Bartoli, Damien, and Frederick Ross. William Bouguereau. Vol. 2, Catalogue Raisonné of His Painted Work (New York: Antique Collectors' Club, 2010), pp. 198-99, no. 1880/01A, ill.

Standring, Timothy J., and Louis van Tilborgh, eds. Becoming Van Gogh, exh. cat. (Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2012), pp. 138, 271, no. 2, ill.

Myers, Nicole. "Van Gogh and Thinking Nude." In Becoming Van Gogh, exh. cat. Timothy J. Standring and Louis van Tilborgh, eds. (Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2012), p. 82, ill.

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