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It is my opinion that Bouguereau loved to paint the female form. There is no doubt that he was a master at it and applied meticulous detail to his subjects. In this painting a group of nymphs are gathered around a pool. To the rear of the picture there is a cave with several nymphs relaxing on the rocks at its mouth. Perhaps the cave is meant to signify the vestibule into the female vagina and the texture of the rocks around the opening are representative of that of the vaginal wall. The main focus of the piece are the two nymphs just off centre of the piece sitting on the rope swing. They are being helped by another who is standing thigh high in the pool and appears to be providing the leverage for the swing. The nymph on the left of the swing is leaning affectionately into the one at her side and has her arm around her waist suggesting that perhaps they are lesbian lovers. She appears to be staring provocatively out of the picture at you as if to suggest that she is aware of your gaze and yet untroubled or maybe even turned on by it. The other female curiously looks down toward her genital area perhaps feeling the tingling sensation of becoming aroused by all that is going on around her.
Unknown to them all they have uninvited guests who are watching from behind the trees to the right of the picture. One of the nymphs seated at the front of the group seems to have sensed their presence as she appears to be looking in their direction, perhaps they are not as well hidden as they thought. All in all this is a highly erotic piece portraying both innocents and beauty along with a hint of suggestion which was one of William Bouguereau's many talents when portraying the female nude.
I have noticed through out my research of Bouguereau's work the similarity and use of certain subjects in some of his paintings. In this piece dated 1878 he has portrayed a nymph standing to the left of the piece playing with her hair. He has used a similar pose in an earlier piece entitled, baigneuse c1870 Bather, were the subject is standing in an almost identical pose. More apparent is his painting of la naissance de venus c1879. were he has almost certainly to my mind used the same subject.la naissance de Venus c1879. showing incredible Similarity to the nymph detail to the left of the picture in Nymphaem.
The above account is my interpretation of the work and should in no way be taken as fact.
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