The Virgin of the Lilies is one of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s most famous angel paintings.
Known in French as La Vierge au Lys, it’s a stunning oil on canvas artwork. However, despite the intense attention to detail, the painting is relatively small. Indeed, it measures just 27 centimeters by 18 centimeters.
Who painted The Virgin of the Lilies?
William-Adolphe Bouguereau painted The Virgin of the Lilies (also known as Madonna of the Lilies) in 1899. It meticulously represents Bouguereau’s highly realistic style.
Imbued with the French Academy’s classical rules, his art gives a sense of life and movement. The viewer’s gaze automatically moves to the holy family’s faces with their glowing golden halos.
Featuring two seated figures, Bouguereau uses a very traditional Christian composition. Indeed, Nicolas Poussin, Titian, and Raphael depicted Mary and Jesus in relaxed, seated poses.
As part of his Academy training, Bouguereau studied the works of Renaissance masters. As a result, he was very familiar with their famous religious paintings.
What does Bougereau's famous religious oil painting represent?
Virgin of the Lilies by William-Adolphe Bouguereau represents the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus Christ. Both figures appear with a bright golden halo illuminating their heads. However, Mary is shrouded in a jet-black cloak, symbolizing the looming tragedy.
The baby Jesus’s hands also rise to either side of his head, further foreshadowing his death and crucifixion.
Bouguereau was proficient in depicting skin (best seen in works such as The Wave, 1896). His skill is also evident in The Virgin of the Lilies. Indeed, Mary’s fingers realistically press into the young child’s soft frame. It’s a scene that’s both intensely realistic and idealized.
Bouguereau’s technique of slowly building up colors layer by layer creates his characteristic luminescent effects. His characters maintain their warmth and humanity while retaining their religious sense of calm and serenity.
What do Lilies symbolize in art?
Bouguereau’s choice of lilies is highly symbolic. In art, lilies link with chastity, innocence, and purity. Their positioning around Mary’s throne reinforces these ideas.
Lilies are incredibly important in Christian symbolism. Indeed, they’re so commonly associated with the Virgin Mary they’re sometimes known as Madonna Lilies. In addition, people often use lilies for decorating weddings and christenings, evoking ideas of femininity and devotion.
In addition to lilies, Bougueareau included brighter colored flowers on the background wallpaper. These flowers (featuring yellows, oranges, purples, and pinks) add to the composition without detracting from the two central figures.
Where is the original Bouguereau painting?
The Virgin of the Lilies currently sits in a private collection. As such, its location remains unknown.
Regarding subject matter, Bouguereau often focused on classical and mythological themes. Consequently, he produced relatively few famous religious paintings.
Many William-Adolphe Bouguereau paintings depict the Virgin Mary or Madonna.
Other artworks include the holy mother and child include, The Virgin with Angels (Regina Angelorum), and the highly unusual Virgin of Consolation.
Bouguereau’s most famous Madonna and Child artwork is the Pieta, however. Completed in 1876 (a full twenty-three years before Virgin of the Lilies), it references Bouguereau’s pain of child loss. Indeed, Bouguereau’s son, George, died aged sixteen on 19 July 1875. Bouguereau consequently paints Mary’s dark eyes accusingly staring out of the canvas. It is a work of anger, sadness, and disbelief.
With this personal meaning, Bouguereau’s later Virgin of the Lilies becomes even more poignant. His earlier grief at the loss of his son transforms into Christian hope and acceptance of God’s love.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau Paintings: Fine Art Reproductions
Explore our extensive art collection if you adore the beauty and elegance of William-Adolphe Bouguereau paintings. With a broad array of museum-quality art reproductions, you’ll find stunning famous painting replicas to grace the walls of your home or office.
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