The painting depicts a mother and a child, and has a dark background. The mother, seated alongside her naked infant, who is lying down, holds a bunch of grapes over her child, and the child longingly reaches out to the grapes.
The Bunch of Grapes is noted for its neoclassical style, which is characteristic of the artist Bouguereau. The painting is also noted for its rich symbolism, better understood with insights into the artist’s life and biography. Neoclassicism seeks to revive the ancient spirit in a modern form.
Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist, and well known for making interpretations of classical subjects. He is famous for bringing to life characters from ancient pagan and Christian mythology, including nymphs, goddesses, and madonnas.
He is also famous for portraying Christian themes in a contemporary setting, appealing to the taste of his wealthy art patrons. In such a context, “The Bunch of Grapes” bears a striking similarity to Pierre Migrand’s landmark 1640 painting “The Virgin and the Grapes,” where the infant Jesus looks on with gentleness at Virgin Mary, who dangles a bunch of grapes over him.
The similarity of the characters and the setting betrays a strong association between The Virgin and the Grapes and The Bunch of Grapes.
Even without an underlying religious connotation, “The Bunch of Grapes” connects instantly with mothers, depicting the purity and tenderness of love.
Toddlers love grapes, and at a surface level, the painting depicts the love and affections mothers have for their toddlers, and their desire to provide the best things their toddlers like.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (825 – 1905) is one of the famous neoclassical and realist painters of his times. Known for his realistic themes and his extensive use of the female body as an art form, his paintings received widespread popularity and top billings among art connoisseurs, buyers, and brokers alike.
He executed 822 paintings through the course of his life, and the original whereabouts of many of his paintings are still unknown. “The Bunch of Grapes” was executed in 1868, when Bouguereau had already established himself as a popular artist.