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Legion of Honor

Bouguereau "The Broken Pitcher"

Bouguereau "The Broken Pitcher"

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From: Legion of Honor
Limited Edition: 35
Exhibition: Classics from the Legion of Honor
Material: Printed vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 72" (88cm x 182cm)

Hanging Hardware Included


William-Adolphe Bouguereau was a greatly admired French academic painter of the 19th century. His stunningly realistic paintings were sought after by wealthy patrons who eschewed the Impressionists gaining popularity at the time. One of his paintings of a beautiful young woman, "The Broken Pitcher" is seen on 35 banners from the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The gentle sensibility of Bouguereau shines through in this tender, reflective work.


A romantic view of a child’s blossoming into adulthood was taken by the 19th-century French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau. While not as blatantly sexualized as in the work of some of his contemporary artists, the children painted by Bouguereau are on the verge of adulthood and evoke a sense of both innocence and sensuality. This is not prurious in nature, but rather a way for this classical painter with a romantic sensibility to express the fullness of childhood. His works were not unique in their subject matter or symbolism, but were a part of a broader trend at the time. This banner shows a detail from his work The Broken Pitcher from 1891. To viewers at the time, the message of the work would have been abundantly clear.

Works of the day often depicted a female peasant or shepherdess sitting alone. As more people moved to cities and became urban dwellers, they maintained an idyllic belief that in the countryside love was pure and simple, unfettered by the constraints and demands of urban life. Showing such a shepherdess seated alone implied that she was awaiting a tryst with a lover, and sadly, the message was that we was not likely to show up. A painting of a broken pitcher was a common symbol of lost virginity and virtue, so this work sent a clear message to its contemporary viewers.

Bouguereau had great technique and the ability to paint distinct textures clearly. His classical training is seen in the separation of his subject from the almost theatrical nature of his background. Bougeureau himself stated:

“In spite of all that is written to the contrary, an artist only reproduces what he finds in nature—to know how to see and how to seize what one sees—there is all the secret of the imagination.”

The other side of the banner is white with black text that reads “The classics are closer than you think./Lincoln Park/34th Avenue/& Clement Street” and includes the museum’s name and cinquefoil logo.


These banners were displayed around San Francisco throughout the summer of 2008 to promote the Legion of Honor’s permanent collection.

About the Artist

Learn more about William-Adolphe Bouguereau

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