The motif of a young man at a window, wooing a woman at her spinning wheel, and the vaguely sixteenth-century German costumes and setting, led writers to associate this painting with the tragic story of Faust and Marguerite. The seduction of the innocent heroine by the wicked Faust was a popular pictorial subject in the nineteenth century, inspired by Goethe’s dramatic poem and its operatic staging by Charles Gounod. Regardless of the lovers’ identities, the lushly painted, romantic scene would have appealed to Bouguereau’s well-heeled clientele.
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Artist:William Bouguereau (French, La Rochelle 1825–1905 La Rochelle)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:64 3/8 x 44 in. (163.5 x 111.8 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. Elliot L. Kamen, in memory of her father, Bernard R. Armour, 1960
Inscription: Signed and dated (right, on pedestal): W-BOVGVEREAV / 1872
[Goupil, Paris, 1872–74; stock no. 7349; purchased from the artist, as "La Séduction," on November 29, 1872, for Fr 10,000; sold on April 21, 1874, half on account, to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York, from 1874]; Mrs. D. D. Colton, San Francisco (in 1892); Bernard R. Armour, Englewood, N. J. (until d. 1949); his wife, Mrs. Bernard R. (Martha S.) Armour, later Mrs. Jerome Gordon, Englewood, N. J. (from 1949); her daughter, Mrs. Elliot L. (Ruth Armour) Kamen, Englewood, N. J. (until 1960; her gift to The Met)
LOAN OF THIS WORK IS RESTRICTED.
Ch[arles]. Vendryes. Catalogue illustré des oeuvres de W. Bouguereau. Paris, 1885, p. 47, ill. (engraving), as "Séduction".
John Denison Champlin Jr. and Charles C. Perkins, ed. Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings. New York, 1892, vol. 1, p. 189, as "Persuasion of Marguérite," in the collection of Mrs. D. D. Colton, San Francisco.
Marius Vachon. W. Bouguereau. Paris, 1900, p. 151, as "Séduction".
Georges Wildenstein in "What Should a Museum Be? Editorial Symposium." Art In America 2 (1961), ill. p. 26, as "Faust and Marguerite".
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 174–75, ill., call it "The Proposal"; note that it was called "Séduction" during Bouguereau's lifetime, but entered the MMA collection as "Faust and Marguerite" and may also have been known as "Persuasion of Marguerite" [see Ref. Champlin and Perkins 1892]; suggest that the spinning wheel "provided an excuse for linking the young lady with Marguerite," a character in "Goethe's drama or Gounod's popular opera".
John Rewald. "Should Hoving Be De-accessioned?" Art in America 61 (January–February 1973), p. 28.
"Talk of the Town: Bouguereau." New Yorker (November 25, 1974), p. 43.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 437, ill.
Damien Bartoli with Frederick Ross. William Bouguereau. Vol. 1, His Life and Works. New York, 2010, colorpl. 115 (reversed).
Damien Bartoli with Frederick Ross. William Bouguereau. Vol. 2, Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work. New York, 2010, pp. 146–47, 365, no. 1872/18, ill. (color, reversed), call it "Séduction (Seduction)"; note that the artist listed it as "Deux amoureux" in his accounts; mention a finished sketch (private collection, France) closely resembling this picture.
Eric Zafran inBouguereau & America. Ed. Tanya Paul and Stanton Thomas. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, 2019, pp. 37, 43, states that it was sometimes referred to as "The Persuasion of Marguerite and Faust".
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