The Youth of Bacchus, 1884
William Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle and spent some of his youth in Bordeaux, where his father was established as a wine merchant. After four years of studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1850. He rapidly became an artist known to and appreciated by the public. He was an academic artist who preferred Greco-Roman mythological subjects, such as The Youth of Bacchus, which were ideal pretexts for representing unclothed bodies in perfect anatomical detail.
Bouguereau signed an exclusivity contract with Adolphe Goupil. The latter, who also owned an art gallery, became the painter's preferred dealer and his workshops used the various techniques of the period to reproduce practically all of the painter's works. For example, the painting The Youth of Bacchus has been reproduced as a photoengraving. Photoengraving is a modern photomechanical reproduction procedure which combines the accuracy of photography with the image stability of a traditional engraving. Often produced in colour, these widely distributed images were employed in the decoration of middle-class apartments.