Title: Le Saintes Femmes au Tombeau (The Holy Women at the Sepulcher)
Artist: William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Private Collection
Mark 16: 4-5 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
This painting by Bouguereau has an immediacy and vividness, an seems to have been influenced by photography. The young man in white, only just visible in the light that comes from the tomb, at first seems largely redundant. The first and third women are also well composed, but all the meaning and power of the picture is focused in the central figure, on her astonished face and her clasped hands. But the composition invites us to look beyond just the surface image. We can see a fourth place left available to stand among the women, to peer into the tomb, to see what the three women see. There is a place for us to bear witness if we are willing to take the step forward.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 - August 19, 1905) was a French academic painter. Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects. Toward the end of his career, at the same time that he was admired by the public, he was also impugned by a growing clique of painters and writers of the new generation who considered themselves progressive, and who believed that rebellion against traditional values in painting was their raison d'etre. Bouguereau and his colleagues were rapidly labeled as reactionaries in the face of this growing cult of the new, found first in Impressionism and Post Impressionism. His fate was to be much like that of Rembrandt, whose work was also ridiculed and banished from museums and official art circles for the hundred years following his death.