The Pearl and the Wave

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The Wave and the Pearl
Paul Baudry - The Pearl and the Wave - c 1862 - Detroit Institute of Arts.jpg
ArtistPaul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions83.5 cm × 178 cm (32.9 in × 70 in)
LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

The Pearl and the Wave (French: La Perle et la vague),[1] also known as The Wave and the Pearl, is a painting by the French artist Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry created in 1862.[2] The painting shows a nude woman lying on the edge of a rocky sea shore, with her head turned to gaze backward over her shoulder towards the viewer. Waves are breaking in the background.

The Pearl and the Wave was the subject of contemporary curiosity.[1] The painting was met with praise from art critics for its technique and distinguishing quality.[3] Artist Kenyon Cox described The Pearl and the Wave as "the most perfect painting of the nude" in the 19th century.[2] Cox identified some features in the painting which he described as "grace of attitude", the well-rounded but slim body of a young woman, the visible dimple in the shoulder, the "savoring of subtle line", the "loveliness of the color", the "solid yet mysterious modelling", and the "perfection of delicate surface". Cox believed these features make this painting what he calls "a pure masterpiece".[2][4]

Art historian Bailey Van Hook identified The Pearl and the Wave as one of the examples of nude paintings where the subject woman is shown lying down sluggishly for the gratification of the looker-on who she describes as "voyeuristic viewer".[2] Nineteenth-century French art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary commented that the woman in the painting may be "a Parisian modiste ... lying in wait for a millionaire gone astray in this wild spot."[5]

In 1863, Empress consort Eugénie de Montijo bought the painting[6] for 20,000 francs.[7] It was her second most costly purchase of the paintings of that time.[7] Today the painting is in the collection of the Museo del Prado in Madrid, the main Spanish national art museum.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nathalia Brodskaya (2011). Manet. Parkstone International. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-78042-029-5. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bailey Van Hook (1 January 1996). Angels Of Art: Women And Art In American Society, 1876-1914. Penn State Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-271-02479-0. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  3. ^ Hubert Damisch (15 June 1996). Damisch/Goodman: Judgment of Paris. University of Chicago Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-226-13510-6. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  4. ^ Kenyon Cox (1 July 2004). Old Masters and New: Essays in Art Criticism. Digital Antiquaria. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-58057-280-4. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  5. ^ Charles Bernheimer (22 May 1997). Figures of Ill Repute: Representing Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century France. Duke University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-8223-1947-4. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  6. ^ Jane Turner (2000). The Grove Dictionary of Art: From Monet to Cézanne : late 19th-century French artists. Oxford University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-312-22971-9. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  7. ^ a b Alison McQueen (16 August 2011). Empress Eugénie and the Arts: Politics and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-4094-0585-6. Retrieved 19 April 2012.