Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    William Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
    La leçon de flûte, 1868
    Oil on canvas
    46 x 35 inches (116.8 x 88.9 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: W. Bouguereau 1868


    The artist;
    Goupil & Cie, Paris, acquired from the above, December 15, 1868;
    Hollender of Brussels, acquired from the above, February 19, 1869;
    Hammer Galleries, New York;
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1973.

    Bouguereau's accounts as La leçon de flûte;
    Goupil's stockbooks and sales records (no. 3792) as La leçon de musique;
    C. Vendryès, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1885, p. 38 as La leçon de flûte;
    C. Franquet (Comte de Franqueville), Le premier siècle de l'Institut de France, Paris, 1895, p. 370 as La leçon de flûte;
    M. Vachon, William Bouguereau, Paris, 1900, p. 149 as La leçon de flûte;
    D. Bartoli and F. Ross, William Bouguereau, Catalogue Raisonné of his Painted Work, Vol. II, New York, 2010, p. 112, no. 1868/15 as La leçon de flûte, pl. 89 illustrated.

    In the 1860s, Bouguereau beguiled his audience with Italian pastoral subjects, many featuring the feminine charms of modern day Madonnas. Differing from these many works is The flute lesson where the artist has chosen instead to depict a father introducing his young child to the delights of music. As the patient teacher gently embraces the young one and steadies the instrument, the mastery of Bouguereau's brush breathes such life into the figures that the viewer can almost hear the first tentative notes from the little student's efforts. Bouguereau's accomplished handling can also be seen in the description of the various textures: the hardness of stone, the softness of the child's chemise. Equally compelling is the artist's sureness in the harmony of line and color that produces a wonderful balance between these country folk and the rugged mountain setting.

    In its discussion of the musical instruments depicted in this painting, the catalogue raisonné of the artist notes that Bouguereau has portrayed not a flute but a piffero, a double-reed oboe-type instrument played in the mountains of the Apennines and elsewhere in Italy. Also pictured to the right of the young father is a zampogna, a double-chantered bagpipe, a traditional instrument played in The Marches and southward into Sicily. These instruments were often played together and were the livelihood of traveling musicians who were frequently depicted entertaining city folk in popular contemporary pictures. In the present picture, however, the viewer is treated to a tender moment between the musicians at home, playing the traditional music of Italy just for themselves.

    Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000.

    Condition Report*: Glue-lined canvas. Under UV light there appears to be two periods of restoration to the man's face. The older period: small touches of inpaint to his left eye and cheek, the more recent period are small touches to his jawline and to the hair above his right eye. There are a few tiny touches of inpaint in and around the child's eyes and right cheek and a few further tiny touches to child's chest, shift, and legs. There is a 1 1/4 x 3/4in area of inpaint below child's left foot. There are tiny, discrete touches of inpaint (to the fine craquelure) scattered in sky and background, minor inpaint to frame abrasion in corners of canvas. Fine craquelure scattered throughout.  Framed Dimensions 54 X 43.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Bidding Begins Approx.
    16th Friday
    Auction Dates
    7th Friday
    Proxy Bidding Begins Approx.
    3 Days
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: N/A
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,845
    Auction Type
    Signature®:  Heritage Live®:After Internet bidding closes, live bidding will take place through Your secret maximum bid placed prior to the live event will compete against the live bids. To maximize your chances of winning, enter realistic secret maximum bids on our site. Many of our proxy bidders are successful at winning lots in these auctions, and usually below their secret maximum. You can also place last minute bids directly with us by e-mailing or calling 1-866-835-3243. (Important note: Due to software and Internet latency, live bids may not register in time, so enter realistic proxy bids.)

    Signature® Floor Sessions
    Proxy bidding ends ten minutes prior to the session start time. Live Proxy bidding on Heritage Live starts 24 hours before the live session begins and continues through the session. During the live auction event, bidding in person is encouraged, and Heritage Live includes streaming audio and often video during the event.

    Track Item