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Oil on fabric
Framed: 87.3 x 127 x 5.4 cm (34 3/8 x 50 x 2 1/8 in.); Unframed: 71.3 x 111.8 cm (28 1/16 x 44 in.)
Bequest of Noah L. Butkin 1980.238
These paintings are from a series of eight works that Bouguereau painted for a Parisian home decorated in the style inspired by ancient Roman wall paintings found at Pompeii. The ancient Greek poet Arion escaped pirates by fleeing on the back of a sea creature attracted by the poet's singing. In the companion picture, a bacchante, a female follower of the Roman god Bacchus, rides a panther and carries a pinecone-tipped spear called a thyrsus. The figures are silhouetted against a gold honeycomb–patterned background evoking ancient Roman mosaics Bouguereau had studied in Italy. The soft, waxy flesh tones and glimmering gold leaf were calculated to come to life when viewed under the mansion's gas lighting.
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