CABANEL, Alexandre
(b. 1823, Montpellier, d. 1889, Paris)

The Birth of Venus

Oil on canvas, 130 x 225 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Birth of Venus was exhibited at the Salon of 1863. It is one of the best known examples of 19th century academic painting. The picture was bought by the emperor Napoleon III; there is also a smaller replica (painted in 1875 for a banker, John Wolf) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

This painting illustrates the kind of technique that was popular at the time: polished, smooth, and meticulous - quite unlike the vigorous work of Manet, who also exhibited at the Salon. It was Cabanel who reaped every honour, including election to the Institut de France and appointment to a professorship at the École des Beaux-Arts.