Young Ladies on the Bank of the Seine

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Two young women lie by a river. Traditionally, such a scene would be set in an idyllic landscape, with the women as impossibly perfect ideals of youth and beauty, often in the guise of classical nudes – goddesses of Greek mythology. But this pair caused a scandal when a larger version (now in the Musée du Petit Palais, Paris) appeared at the Paris Salon in 1857. Courbet had subverted the tradition, showing two modern city women in an inappropriate Arcadian setting, one of them, shockingly, in her underwear. To the contemporary bourgeois audience, full nudity would probably have been considered less indecent. The artist’s reputation as a dangerous radical quickly grew. Courbet made a number of studies for the Salon painting, but it’s not certain if this is one of them or a copy made later by an unknown artist.

The National Gallery, London



Young Ladies on the Bank of the Seine


before 1857


Oil on canvas


H 96.5 x W 130 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1964

Work type



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