Art Finder Text Detail  
Item Actions
Ratings (0)

: Carrier-Belleuse, Clésinger, and Dalou: French Nineteenth-Century Sculptors


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Having suffered the usual repudiation by the immediate heritors, nineteenth-century sculpture is beginning to enjoy the inevitable revival. Names which were forgotten or ignored for almost a century now crop up in fashionable auctions and scholarly exhibitions—and justly so. The breadth and richness of the sculpture of the last century merit renewed interest. Too long overshadowed by Rodin and the modern movement, these artists have contributed significantly in their own right to the history of art.The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has recently acquired exceptional examples by three sculptors who were among the most highly acclaimed artists of the second half of the nineteenth century, Auguste Clésinger, Albert Carrier-Belleuse, and Jules Dalou. Moreover, each presents a stage in the evolution of sculpture from the rigid neoclassical doctrines of mid-century to the threshold of modern times, and each has a direct link to the next.Jean-Baptiste "Auguste" Clésinger was born in a casemate during the 1814 bombardment of Besançon. The circumstances surrounding his birth augured the tempestuous nature of his character. His future mother-in-law, George Sand, was to refer to him as "le sculpteur enragé."1 Never a diligent student in the classroom, Clésinger manifested his talent for sculpture at an early age. His father, Georges-Philippe Clésinger, professor of drawing and sculpture at the local school of fine arts, encouraged his son's obvious inclination, and the two of them set off for Rome in 1832 to meet the great neoclassicist Thorvaldsen. The famous sculptor's personality made a strong impression on the boy, but his austere style had less of an impact. Clésinger was the child of his era, and he chose instead to study romantic sculpture in Paris. He studied briefly with David d'Angers in 1839, but Clésinger's contentious personality led him to conflict with his master. In reaction, in 1840 he embarked upon his second trip to Italy. He remained several years before returning to Paris in 1845.No one craved fame more ardently than Clésinger. He envisioned a heroic, monumental style, but in practice his works were more often naturalistic renderings of erotic themes. Clésinger's greatest triumph came early in his career, 1847, with the marble Woman Bitten by a Serpent, now in the Louvre (figure 1). The exaggerated neo-baroque thrust of the female figure (which was modeled after Baudelaire's "White Venus," Apollonie Sabatier) intertwined with the scaly serpent was at the limit of propriety. Her sensuous, sprawling form was polished until it glowed. The vibrancy of Clésinger's treatment of the marble seemed to simulate the porous softness of real flesh, an impression heightened by the profusion of realistic foliage on the base. The success of the Woman Bitten by a Serpent impressed upon Clésinger the potential of suggestive images treated naturalistically, and henceforth they recurred frequently during his career.That same year, 1847, Clésinger entered into what appeared to be a brilliant marriage consonant with his anticipated future. While modeling the portrait of George Sand for the Comédie-Française, the sculptor became enamoured of her daughter, Solange-Gabrielle. If her mother waxed euphoric, her father, the Baron du Devant, had "a hard time swallowing that stone-cutter."2Surprisingly, Clésinger's father was equally dubious and delayed his consent, perhaps aware of his son's innate inconstancy. Both men eventually gave in, and the wedding was celebrated at the Baron's Château de Guillery. The couple began idyllically, but Clésinger's improvidence soon disenchanted his bride. In 1852, Solange sued for a legal separation. Her mother bitterly remarked that the sculptor spent more time in his studio than he did at home.3In the aftermath, Clésinger threw himself wholeheartedly into an equestrian statue of Francis I for the Louvre. Here at last was his opportunity to display the heroic scale of truly monumental art. Imagine his disappointment when the figure was badly received. Furious, he left Paris for Rome. His wrath was only assuaged in 1864, when he returned in time to accept his nomination to the Legion of Honor. He remained in Paris until his sudden death in 1883.The marble Bacchante and Faun exemplifies Clésinger's mature work (figure 2). The choice of subject matter, the particular way the work is composed, the combination of sources, and the highly finished handling are characteristic of Clésinger and of the sculpture of his era. The work is signed "J. CLESINGER 1869." (Although known as Auguste, Clésinger signed his works with the initial of his given name, Jean-Baptiste.)While Clésinger was a thorough romantic in temperament, the romantic movement was essentially over when he reached maturity. But the first half of the century spawned the spirit of revivalism and love of the exotic which was to flourish in the second. The Second Empire was the triumph of eclecticism, and Clésinger, like his contemporaries, delved freely into the resources of the past for his inspiration.Marbles were immensely popular during the nineteenth century. They were commonly displayed as a decorative touch in the luxurious town houses that sprang up to line the new boulevards laid out during Napoleon III's reign. Encouraged by the Empress Eugénie's fondness for Marie-Antoinette and her epoch, the neo-rococo thrived. The bacchantes and fauns which inhabited so many salons and boudoirs in the eighteenth century returned in force to grace the mansions of the nineteenth. The theme offered pleasantly suggestive nuances which remained within the realm of good taste because of its mythological context.Clésinger was justified in adding a licentious note because, after all, that is how bacchantes and fauns were expected to behave. The bacchante and faun sit on a rocky knoll. Their wreaths of vines indicate their participation in a wine festival. Inherently erotic, the juxtaposition of a bacchante and a faun has been made more so by the gestures of the figures. The bacchante half reclines against her companion in bemused reverie. She coquettishly fingers his beard, visibly mellowed by the festivities. The faun scrutinizes his prize with an anticipatory grin of triumph. Hugging his pipes to his chest with his left hand, he deftly gathers her drapery in the other. The relaxed, supple form of the bacchante contrasts with that of the tense, muscular faun.The fully articulated back of the group (figure 3) indicates that the work was intended to be seen from all sides. The contours fit snugly into a cohesive pattern of lines. The repeating vertical undulations of the bacchante, the lion skin, and the faun's broad back are woven together by the strong horizontal flow of the faun's arms, the rock, and the base. The bacchante tucks her tambourine behind her thigh, next to the curving edges of her drapery, which swoops down at a particularly sensuous angle to meet the lion's massive paw. The lion skin is a marvelous instance of wit and art. Enormous fangs branch out below the crinkled nose; fuzzy ears cap the deep-cut eyes and knitted brow. Not only does Clésinger's beast help unify the figures and further emphasize their fleshy surface, its consciously exaggerated characteristics re-affirm the playful nature of the seduction.Clésinger was an acknowledged master of lavish rendering, and he finished his group with the opulent naturalism of the Woman Bitten by a Serpent. The abundance of tactile detail emphasizes the smooth expanse of flesh. Sinuous tresses fall across the bacchante's shoulder. Shaggy tufts of hair cover the satyr's legs to his glossy, cloven hooves. The thick vines of the wreaths are heavy with grapes. The bacchante's drapery swirls into her lap and clings tightly to her leg. The pitted base suggests a rock. Lush vegetation accents the composition. These details gratified the taste of the Second Empire. They convey the narrative circumstances of the scene while adding interest to the overall composition and enriching the surface articulation.The bacchante and faun touch along the line of the central axis, stressing the group's frontality. But the spiraling poses of the two figures as they incline toward each other give the composition plasticity. The figures swell out from their common base, drawing together again at the top. The contours trace a complex silhouette that animates the surrounding space. Clésinger carved deeply into the marble block, creating shadowy recesses that reinforce the spatial illusion.While still in Rome, Clésinger had sculpted separate statuettes of a bacchante and a faun (figures 4 and 5), which he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1863.4 These two statuettes depend partially on the famous antique composition of Pan Teaching the Blind Shepherd Daphnis to Play the Pipes (figure 6).5 Although Clésinger reversed his figure, the arrangement of Pan's lower torso, with one leg drawn up, served as the model for the faun. He pushed the faun's lowered leg more to the side and realigned the torso but kept the profile view of the head. Clésinger simply called his figure Faun, but he retained the pipes and the animal skin, the specific attributes of Pan, found in the antique marble. Decorative effect took precedence over literary exactitude. The bacchante may be indebted to Daphnis for her position with one leg tucked behind the other.The antique group was certainly in Clésinger's mind six years later when he consolidated the two statuettes into the single composition now owned by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The basic positions of the two 1863 figures, perched on their separate mounds, remain the same in the ensemble with its common base. To accommodate their new proximity, the bacchante raises her left arm up to the faun, while he reaches around to tug at her drape in a manner that recalls Pan's gesture toward Daphnis. The expressions were modified to complement the revised arrangement. The isolated bacchante's features were more consciously antique than those of the later one, whose head tilts further back, her expression softened, and whose hair trails onto her shoulder. The earlier faun's look is more impersonally attentive than the later one's. The pelt now hangs over his shoulder, cushioning the point of contact with the bacchante. The common base received a more descriptive treatment. But the changes are much more than a matter of detail; the rapport between the figures has been radically altered. No longer a balanced pair, they have become an ensemble with a readily understood content.6Twentieth-century critics tend to disparage the repeated use of the same figures (a common practice in the second half of the nineteenth century) as if it were somehow "cheating." The practice is accepted when it occurs within the work of a giant like Rodin, who explored it endlessly among the different components of the Gates of Hell. But when found in pre-Rodin nineteenth-century sculpture, scholars often react critically. Clésinger's 1863 statuettes were once in the collection of "F.B.,"7 which is assuredly François Barbedienne, director of the Barbedienne foundry. One of the best manufacturers of art objects, he consciously raised the level of achievement in commercial bronzes. The Maison Barbedienne edited models by most of the well-known contemporary sculptors, including over a dozen by Clésinger. The statuettes were purchased as models for bronze versions, available in various sizes, that were produced for at least two decades.8 The success of the statuettes may have further induced Clésinger to unite them into a single marble.Combining two statuettes into one work was only one of the ways in which manufacturers and sculptors alike promoted quality at a lower price; the rise of industrial art in the mid-nineteenth century stimulated the practice of re-interpreting figural motifs in general.Whatever initial impetus came from the antique and from the revival of such themes as a result of the neo-rococo, the aesthetic ideal of Clésinger's Bacchante and Faun lies in Renaissance and mannerist art, which Clésinger had had ample opportunity to absorb in Rome. Michelangelo was Clésinger's idol.9 In the Italian genius' work, Clésinger found the grandeur and profundity he yearned for. Aspects of what the French sculptor revered in his idol are manifested in the Bacchante and Faun. The compressed force of the faun, with his clearly articulated musculature, occurs repeatedly in Michelangelo's figures. The poses of nude youths on the Sistine ceiling affected the faun's spiraling thrust. His veined hand clasping the pipes with strong, graceful fingers echoes Michelangelo's handling as seen in the Moses. The placement of one foot back to the side may also have come from the same source. The bacchante's vacant expression, framed by pendants of rounded grapes, is derived from Michelangelo's Bacchus. Her pupils, defined by shallow precise incisions, are similar to those of the drunken god. Clésinger's general treatment of the surfaces, where a satin-like finish contrasts with textured passages, is greatly influenced by Michelangelo's style.The gesture of Clésinger's bacchante toward the faun echoes Ingres' Jupiter and Thetis, where Thetis imploringly caresses Jupiter's beard.10 Moreover, the peculiarly boneless definition of the bacchante's anatomy derives from Ingres' mannerist style.Shortly after Clésinger finished the Bacchante and Faun, the Second Empire was swept away by the Franco-Prussian War. The Third Republic kept the Second Empire's taste for the grand, but change was in the air, and Clésinger's art lost favor.Not all of the sculptors popular during the Second Empire suffered from a loss of patronage with the change or regimes; Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, Clésinger's near contemporary, remained very much in vogue. The affable Carrier-Belleuse was of an entirely different temperament than the fiery Clésinger, but his sensual, naturalistic style was in some measure indebted to the precedent set by Woman Bitten by a Serpent.Carrier-Belleuse was born in 1824 in Anise-le-Château, a small town northeast of Paris. As the son of a public notary, Carrier-Belleuse spent his earliest years in relative comfort, if not actual wealth, but the disappearance of his father before he was ten years old threw the family into serious financial straits. Nonetheless, Carrier-Belleuse persisted in his ambition to become an artist. To learn something of the profession as well as to improve the household finances, he became apprenticed to the ciseleur Butchery.11 At twelve years old, Carrier-Belleuse was introduced by David d'Angers into the atelier of the famous goldsmith Falconer, where he remained until the latter's death in 1839.In the early 1840s, Carrier-Belleuse enrolled in the Cole Royal Gratuity de Design . . . et de Sculpture d'Ornement, which was devoted to the decorative arts. While attending the "Petite École," as the École Royale was called to distinguish it from the École des Beaux-Arts, Carrier-Belleuse freelanced with the growing number of manufacturers of art, such as Charpentier, Barbedienne, Denière, Paillard, Vittoz and Lemaire, with whom he quickly established a reputation for excellence.12 He was to continue to supply models for the French manufacturers throughout his lifetime, even when living out of the country.In 1850, Carrier-Belleuse was invited to England to create patterns for parian ware at the Minton China Works, Stoke-on-Trent. He had begun his lifelong union with Anne Louise Adnot in the mid-forties. In 1851 she and their four children joined him in London, where the couple were legally married in good Victorian fashion.The World Exhibition of 1855 brought them back to Paris. Carrier-Belleuse established a studio on the rue de al Tour d'Auvergne. From then until his death, the sculptor divided his career between large-scale sculpture and the decorative arts. He exhibited regularly in official salons and his industrial designs were seen everywhere. Among his apprentices were some of the most well-known sculptors of the nineteenth century-Falguière, Dalou, and Rodin.In 1867 he was awarded the Gold Medal at the Salon for Le Messie and admitted into the Legion of Honor. The arrival of the Legion's red ribbon coincided with a request for a new model of "Bébé Jumeau," the most popular doll in France. Typical of the man, Carrier-Belleuse stuck his ribbon in his lapel and went off for clay to model the doll.The Belgian Order of Leopold invited him as a chevalier in 1869. He assumed the position of Director of Works of Art for the Manufacturer of Porcelain at Sèvres, in 1876, where he remained until his death in 1887.He was awarded a "Diplome d'honneur" by the Union Centrale in 1884, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to French industrial arts. The following year, he became an officer in the Legion of Honor for "services rendered to the decorative arts by his fabrications."13While Carrier-Belleuse's contributions to sculpture should not be slighted, he was regarded as the hero of the movement to ameliorate the decorative arts."We ask ourselves sometimes why things today so often lack grace and elegance, whereas the least utensil, the most insignificant bibelot of past centuries, almost always has an original cachet that betrays the hand of the artist.The reason is simple. It's that in other times art and industry were sworn allies; they had agreed on a wise and fecund union, and today they are divorced . . . . To react against this state of things, a singular esprit, independent and audacious, having a vigorous talent and a prodigious fecundity, was necessary . . . . Industrial art was languishing, Carrier-Belleuse took on the task of reviving it, and we can say that he knew how to imbue it with the superb élan that has brought it so far in the last twenty years . . . . The sum of his compositions and of his productions is astonishing. He touches on everything, and all who know his oeuvre, agree with us that he can legitimately claim a large part in the immense progress accomplished in thirty years by our national industries."14Although anthropomorphic torchères have a long tradition in the history of lighting fixtures, they reached their zenith of popularity during the Second Empire. The human form was cast in every conceivable guise to bear the torches and bouquets of lights that illuminated the hallways and soirées of even modest bourgeois households. Sculptors exhausted the repertoire of types of fixtures, fashioning their models for a wide variety of markets. Gilded sconces, cast-iron torchères for a portecochére, zinc table-candelabra-the buyer could find virtually any size, medium, and type to suit his needs and his purse.Carrier-Belleuse created over a dozen designs of such fixtures for the major fabricants, including Charpentier, Denière, Barbedienne, Christofle, and Durenne. The earliest known work by him is in fact a torchère. In 1846 he provided the bronzier Denière with an ensemble for the mantle-piece, consisting of a group of dice players flanked by candelabra representing sixteenth-century German foot soldiers.15 Among Carrier-Belleuse's most famous works are the pair of larger-than-life torchères at the Paris Opéra, where two women and an infant carry great rings of lights on each side of the bottom of the Grand Staircase.The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Neo-Greek Torchères (figures 7 and 8) were probably first seen at the World Exhibition of 1862 in London. An engraving of one of the pair was included in a German catalogue of industrial arts at the exhibition, where it was described:In the middle picture, we have a splendid candelabrum in bronze from Charpentier in Paris. This candelabrum is meant for an entry hall, a vestibule or a large salon and as such it is naturally as important in regard to its execution as a highly remarkable work of art. The modeling seems especially successful on the female figure on the pedestal, which carries the shaft of the light-fixture with twelve sockets for gas-jets.16The torchères are signed "A Carrier // Charpentier, bronzier / Paris," and "Carrier // Charpentier / Paris." Up until approximately 1868, Carrier-Belleuse signed his works simply "Carrier," but after this he consistently signed "Carrier-Belleuse." In both cases the "A." was used erratically. He seems to have altered his signature to avoid confusion with Auguste Carrier, a ceramics painter.17Each torchère consists of a single female figure who stands on an earthlike mound. The semi-nude figures are draped in a vaguely antique manner. Striated bands decorate the draperies' edges. Each holds a long stem that flares at the top to receive an elaborate candelabrum. The poses are slightly varied to add contrast within the pair. The branches of the candelabrum curve into foliate scrolls that carry two successive levels of lights before they rejoin the central pole. The cornet shapes upon which the two bouquets of lights rest repeat in the central shaft, capped by a tall, ornate finial. Palmettes further decorate the branches.An elaborate platform, raised on four lion feet and decorated with ornate aprons, supports the pyramidal socle with its projecting cornice. The front and back panel carries a red marble plaque mounted with a silver-gilt medallion of a pseudo-antique profile; gilt bronze grotesque masks framed with scrolls and mock weapons are applied to the lateral faces. The palmette motif found in the candelabra repeats in the flared aprons. The total height of each torchère is 46 inches.The combination of silvered and gilded surfaces was much in vogue during the second half of the nineteenth century. Here the bodies are juxtaposed to the gilt details of the costume and the gilt torchères themselves.Their sparkle counters the dark, rich surface of the black onyx base. The rich mixture of media is consonant with the fondness for opulence that set the tone of interiors of the Second Empire.From the beginning Carrier-Belleuse preferred a lighter, more animated style than the static, broad handling favored by most of his contemporaries, but the torchères mark the emergence of his mature style. Until the mid-sixties, the sculptor wavered between the heavier, bland female-type common at mid-century and his own proclivity for an elegant, distinctive style. In the early sixties, he turned increasingly to a sophisticated image of lithe young women cast in swaying contrapposto. Their mannered poses and artfully arranged draperies reveal the full length of their figures. Neo-mannerism never emerged as a revival style in its own right, but later nineteenth-century sculptors incorporated aspects of late sixteenth-century art into their compositions. Carrier-Belleuse's love of the graceful drew him instinctively to the elongated figural proportions of mannerist art. The heavy-lidded eyes, bow mouths, and small, prominent chins became the basic features of his winsome representations. Whether full of joi de vivre or demurely pensive, Carrier-Belleuse's women project a particular mood. An aura of sweet wistfulness permeates the torchère figures. The characteristics seen here were to be refined during the sixties into his definitive, highly polished style.A more detailed style was an inevitable result of the movement toward greater realism that touched all of the arts during the nineteenth century, but Carrier-Belleuse, like Clésinger, was an early advocate of highly articulated surfaces. Carrier-Belleuse's ability to integrate abundant detail into a unified composition was partly due to the duality of his career. His early training in a goldsmith's atelier attuned him to design on a small scale and to the use of realistic detail to enliven a composition. At the same time, handling sculpture on a large scale taught him to think in more monumental terms and to avoid loading his works with an excessive description. The two torchères witness this balance: the overall use of detail is restrained, but those details that are included are defined with intricate precision.Carrier-Belleuse's strong affinity for the neo-rococo did not prevent him from drawing on resources from the past. He freely borrowed whatever motifs suited his needs and re-interpreted them accordingly. Despite their antique flavor, the Neo-Greek Torchères continue the eighteenth-century tradition seen in Falconet's monumental torchères for the Palace of Versailles (figure 9). Falconet's composition may have specifically suggested the format for the Neo-Greek Torchères, but Carrier-Belleuse's own taste umbued them with an attenuated delicacy. Sinuous curves of drapery accentuate the women's discrete nudity. Their fragility, in contrast to the robust eighteenth-century volumes, is further emphasized by the long, narrow stems of the light-poles that branch into ornate bouquets at the top. The crisp handling of Carrier-Belleuse's torchères differs from the more abstract planes of Falconet's.The phenomenon of historicism nurtured a deeper interest in the past, just as the romantic movement engendered a fascination with the remote and exotic. The classical revival had been underway since the eighteenth century and ultimately belongs with all of the revival styles as a manifestation of romanticism. Eighteenth-century artists sometimes simulated the antique (e.g. garden follies in the form of temples), but the nineteenth century returned to the past with an earnestness hitherto unknown. The vogue for the art and artifacts of earlier times spread to encompass the gamut of epochs from the antique to the eighteenth century. Motifs were not simply adapted to suit the new taste, whole environments were reconstituted. The full diversity of eclecticism is most apparent in the decorative arts. Revival styles dictated the elaborate "period" trappings of pseudo-Renaissance villas, medieval castles, and Moorish pavilions, each vying with the others for a sumptuous effect. Interiors were entirely defined in terms of what the artist understood a given style to be-or wanted it to be. A certain ambivalence in the attitude surrounding "revival" works or ensembles should be admitted. While the notion of authenticity was frequently invoked, the use of revival elements ranged from a pedantic concern for exactitude to a casual allusion-sometimes only nominal. Grandiose impressions took precedence over archeological accuracy, and the artist would unhesitatingly abandon strict rules in the name of comfort-all for a dramatic effect. Prince Jerome Napoleon capped the rage for all things Greek with his town house on the avenue Montaigne. Few could afford to indulge their tastes so extravagantly, but Neo-Greek accessories were widely fashionable.In Carrier-Belleuse's torchères, the coiffure, the bracelet, and the drapery loosely convey an antique spirit. The most conspicuously "Greek" element of the ensemble, the base, derives from several sources. The pyramidal shape originated in the obelisk. The elaborate grotesqueness, the lion feet, and the flared aprons of the base, as well as the general configuration of the actual candelabra, show the pervasive influence of Renaissance design. The palmette was a common Greek decoration, and the profile medallions emulate antique prototypes.Comparison with one of Eugène Capy's Neo-Greek torchères (figure 10) produced by Christofle et Cie, also from the early 1860s, demonstrates the extent to which Carrier-Belleuse's figures represent a change from the current style. While realistic accessories are used to describe both figures, their renderings differ markedly. Capy ornamented his figure with specific details—a copiously pleated tunic, jewelry, and even an amphora to support the candelabrum—but the basic definition of his figure maintains the static, impassive style of contemporary neoclassical sculpture. In contract, Carrier-Belleuse posed his figures in an undulating curve. Instead of obliterating the forms under layers of material, he used the drapery to accentuate the contours of his figures. Where Capy kept the broad lines of neoclassical coiffures, Carrier-Belleuse articulated his into a mass of tiny curls. When compiled, these differences account for the impression of individuality that consistently distinguished Carrier-Belleuse's designs.The Industrial Revolution resulted in a number of innovations in the processes of producing metalwork that affected the corresponding aesthetic. Systems of casting and of plating an inferior metal with a more costly one were perfected and expanded. The mechanics of casting metal, bronze or otherwise, became considerably easier, and consequently the size of the edition and the scale of the model were no loner limited by technical difficulties. A more precise replica of the original could be obtained-new metals like galvanoplastic required no chasing after casting. The most subtle nuances of the model emerged with sharp clarity in the final work. The minute surface distinctions which were an integral part of the taste for realistic detail could be indulged to a new extreme. This further invited complex composition and elaborate surface articulation. The union of taste and means generated a demand for highly refined objects which could only be produced by the latest commercial methods, whether or not the object was intended for mass production.A pervasive belief in the positive values of industrialization led responsible manufacturers to commission designs from well-known artists in the hope that producing them on a large scale would compensate for their initial expense and put good taste within the reach of every man. The practice of reworking motifs, as Clésinger did in the combination of his two separate figures, originated in the industrial arts as a means of expanding the potential of a single design in order to make the whole process of manufacturing more viable. The modification might be a drastic transformation of function and scale or a simple matter of changing one element.A second version of the torchères was exhibited in the Parish Exposition Universelle of 1867. Alfred Darcel, the noted critic and specialist who wrote prolifically on the industrial arts, described the torchères:It is also M. Carrier-Belleuse who has modeled two charming figures of young women, French by their features and easy grace, Greek by their borrowed garb and the quasi-symmetry by their robes and poses-Parisians trying their hand at Greek dignity. They hold in with both hands a thin stem of a long pole that spreads into girandoles. These statues, where the gold discreetly blends with the mat tones of silver, harmonize marvelously with the fluted socles of white marble that support them.18Darcel aptly observed that the figures themselves are more French than Greek—an impression strengthened by the substitution of white fluted socles for the neo-antique bases.Luxury is a quality not usually associated with the industrial arts in the twentieth century, but these torchères illustrate the highest achievements of French nineteenth-century commercial manufacture. They were not merely to provide adequate lighting, but to fulfill that function in the most elegant terms possible. Despite the enthusiasm for commercial editions of art objects during the nineteenth century, quantity still corresponded to quality, but out of practical considerations rather than technical ones. The prices for such deluxe items were still prohibitive for mass production, and the number was further restricted because those patrons who could afford such pieces obviously insisted on a proportionate degree of unusualness. Works like the torchères, intended for a client of substantial means, were produced in very limited editions. Each pair of torchères could easily have been outfitted with a different base, and the original Neo-Greek version might well be unique.Aimé-Jules Dalou had neither the eccentric flair of Clésinger nor the gregariousness of Carrier-Belleuse. He was born in 1838, the son of a poor glovemaker. His authoritarian mother was a rabid republication whose politics indoctrinated her family. Throughout his life, Dalou's allegiance was to remain with the working class.From childhood, Dalou modeled in clay. When one of his sisters showed a few of these sketches to Carpeaux, the sculptor recognized the boy's genuine talent. As a result of Carpeaux's intervention, Dalou entered the Petite École to study ornamental sculpture in 1852. Two years later he joined the studio of Françisque Duret at the École des Beaux-Arts. The rigidity of Duret's classical teachings disgusted Dalou, and Dalou gradually dropped out. He earned some money by modeling figures of animals for a taxidermist, but otherwise he drifted aimlessly. Later in his life, this period was to cause him a sense of shame. He suffered repeated disappointments until a friend involved him with the decoration of the mansion that the architect Pierre Manguin had recently constructed for the famous courtesan La Paiva. Manguin was so impressed with Dalou's ability that he promptly paid the young sculptor a substantial sum to insure his participation in the decoration. Manguin's gesture restored Dalou's self-confidence and renewed his dedication to art. During a part of this time, in the early 1860s, Dalou seems to have been employed in Carrier-Belleuse's studio.19One of his friends, also a sculptor, introduced his niece to Dalou. Thoroughly educated in the arts by her uncle, Irma Vuillier was a sympathetic and sensitive companion for Dalou. From their marriage in 1866, Madame Dalou exerted a decisive influence on her husband. Her unpretentious, straightforward attitudes reinforced her husband's need for self-expression. Her insistence that "a peasant was a peasant" had a salutary effect on his art and released his own needs to express simple people in their natural circumstances, in contrast to the current eclectic aesthetic.Dalou was becoming an established decorative sculptor working for prominent goldsmiths, such as the Fannière brothers, when the Franco-Prussian War broke out. He promptly enlisted in the National Guard and joined the Federation of Artists, the revolutionary group headed by Gustave Courbet, which appointed him one of the four new curators of the Louvre during the 1871 Commune. When the short-lived Commune fell, Dalou was forced to flee. He and his family escaped from the museum only with the assistance of the old curator who had remained to safeguard the art treasures. Although a warrant for his arrest had been signed, by some miracle Dalou obtained an official passport from the Thiers government to seek refuge in England. In 1874 he was sentenced in absentia to hard labor for life.The atmosphere of warm friendship and success that Dalou met in England allowed him to develop his latent powers of originality. An old friend, Alphonse Legros, and his congenial wife offered the Dalous a haven. The patronage of the royal family and of important collectors like Ionides further gave Dalou a stable income. As his talent matured, he was honored at the Royal Academy and widely admired for his portraits and naturalistic genre scenes.Despite his growing fame in England, Dalou returned to France in 1880, after a general amnesty was decreed for participants in the Commune. An even greater triumph greeted Dalou upon his return. His works were well received at the Salon, and in 1883 he was awarded the Medal of Honor, which earned him the rank of chevalier in the Legion of Honor. He began to receive important commissions, including many monuments. The Triumph of the Republic is probably Dalou's most famous monumental work. In 1889, Dalou was inspired to begin the Monument to the Workers. Although the scheme was to occupy the sculptor for the rest of his life, as Gates of Hell had occupied Rodin, it was never finished; some of Dalou's finest individual figures, however, were the workers intended for this monument.From 1893, Dalou was increasingly ill. He continued to work, but the death of his beloved wife in November of 1900 left him despondent. He had already accepted the Hoche Monument and devoted much of his remaining strength to this endeavor. He died on April 15, 1902.After Dalou's death, all of the contents of his studio were left to the Orphelinat des Arts to insure the care of his ailing daughter, Georgette. The Orphelinat sold Dalou's works, retaining the reproduction rights, to the city of Paris in 1905, and 327 pieces were placed at the Petit-Palais.20Through the William Hood Dunwoody Fund, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts purchased a bronze cast of Dalou's sketch of General Hoche for the monument at Quiberon, Brittany (figure 11). The monument grew out of republican fervor. The Revolutionary general Lazare Hoche (1768-1797) had a special significance for the Republicans of the Morbihan region. Hoche was sent to Brittany in 1794. Quiberon was the point of disembarkation for Royalist troops from England, led by the Comte d'Artois, who was determined to reach Parish and re-establish the Monarchy. The Royalists counted on their nobility and the backing of English troops to impress the population, but they had miscalculated the depth of the Republican movement and the ability of Hoche. The invaders were defeated at Fort Penthièvre, and those captured in June, 1795, were condemned to death by the Convention. (The Comte d'Artois survived to become Charles X.) After securing peace in the west of France, Hoche was placed in command of the eastern front; he crossed the Rhine and delivered Alsace in 1797. Shortly after, he died of natural causes; his inherently poor health was ruined by his strenuous military life. His early death left the field open for the other great military hero, Napoleon Bonaparte.In 1895, the local clergy of Quiberon decided to commemorate the centennial of the aborted attempt to re-establish the authority of the Monarchy and the Church with the construction of a chapel. The "bleus de Bretagne," a name originally applied to republican soldiers during the Revolution, determined to counter what they interpreted as a royalist gesture with a monument to Hoche, the inauguration of which could be made the occasion of a display of republican enthusiasm. To this end, on June 22, 1896, the municipality of Quiberon, followed by that of Lorient, expressed the desire to have a statue of Hoche erected on communal territory, and a subscription was initiated. The subscription was an appeal to rally the republic.The name of Hoche is a name pure among the most pure. Hoche is the finest figure of the French Revolution. It appears shining and sweet to us, proud and noble, young and strong, as was the Revolution struggling against all Europe. The motivation was further clarified.The memory of his great deeds, of his eminent services, the present attitude of the adversaries of the Republic in Brittany and Vendée, should engage your support; we have such firm certainty in this, our dear fellow citizens as to associate you with our work, by so employing your fraternal subscriptions and those of the republican population that you have the honor to represent.21The statue was inaugurated July 20, 1902, on the site where the Royalists saw their greatest hope dashed. A brief quote from a heated article devoted to the inauguration in Le Progrès du Morbihan, July 26, 1902, demonstrated the depth of the sentiments aroused.One can imagine the earnestness with which the Republicans thronged to this ceremony and their frenzied applause when the veil covering the statue fell. This popular gathering demonstrated to the Royalist insurgents and the traitors that their time is past but never will it be forgotten.With his deep commitment to the continuing Republican cause, Dalou was an ideal choice to sculpt the Hoche Monument. He began planning it in 1900 in the traditional vein of a single image standing on a high pedestal. He gave form to the ensemble in a preliminary sketch, a patinated plaster that included the base and the figure of Hoche (figure 12). In the more detailed study for the figure of Hoche (figure 13), also in plaster, Dalou kept to his initial conception.22 Hoche is shown standing with his right leg forward, calmly looking straight ahead; he folds his hands over the hilt of his sword, which is still sheathed but pulled to the front. His hair is romantically tossed by the wind. He wears the uniform of a Republican general, with a high cravat, broad-collared coat, and tasseled boots. The scale, however, helps to convey the sense of Hoche's temperate wisdom and strength of character. After Dalou's death three months before the inauguration, the final details were supervised by Camille Lefèvre (figure 14).23The inspiration for Hoche's stance may have come from the Monument to the Memories of generals Pakenham and Gibbs by Sir Richard Westmacott, 1823, in St. Paul's Cathedral (figure 15). Dalou surely knew this monument from his stay in London. General Pakenham stands with his right leg forward, his folded hands resting on his sword.The Petit Palais maquette served as the model for The Minneapolis Institute of Arts' bronze cast. "Circe perdu. AA Hébrard" is stamped on the left side of the statuette next to the signature "DALOU." The number "(2)" appears above. Hébrard had one of the major Parisian foundries of the early twentieth century. Like Barbedienne, he possessed a large private collection.24 Presumably Hébrard paid the Orphelinat des Arts for the rights to reproduce the maquette in bronze. Twelve casts were taken for this edition which was made in 1907.25Through the process of lost wax, the crispness of the plaster acquires a new dimension. The fluid surface of the bronze reflects the rich textural nuances of Dalou's handling. The sparkle of the patina as the light strikes it energizes the latent forces within the figure of Hoche. The edges of the tall boots, the high peaks of the collar-all the details take on a plastic vitality that enhances Dalou's ideal of embodying his image with a forceful serenity. The true power of Dalou's modeling is evident in viewing the statuette from the back (figure 16). Here the rippling brilliance of the surface modulations appeals to us in purity. Description is at a minimum; the surface planes assume an abstract life of their own. Nothing could reveal more profoundly than this the creative gifts of the sculptor.These three works of art, different in style and purpose, illustrate aspects of the major currents affecting the arts in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Clésinger group manifests the initial steps toward a break with the neoclassical stranglehold on the arts prevalent at mid-century, toward a freer approach and a more natural handling. Carrier-Belleuse's torchères demonstrate one of the popular revival styles applied to the decorative arts with the express aim of proving that fine sculpture and a useful application could be one and the same. They also exemplify the high level of achievement reached in the industrial arts at the time. The Dalou sketch represents the naturalistic style which had become the rule for public monuments over the nineteenth century, even for an essentially historical celebrity. Each of these three works shows an important side of the respective artists' careers. Their historical interest aside, they contribute to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts collection by their intrinsic beauty and provide an important nucleus for expanding the collection in the area of nineteenth-century sculpture.June Hargrove, a graduate of the University of California and the Institute of Fine Arts, New York City, spent three years in Parish preparing her dissertation on A. E. Carrier-Belleuse. Ms. Hargrove is currently teaching eighteenth and twentieth-century European and American art at Cleveland State University.Endnotes
  1. Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de 'lecole française au XIX siècle, 4 vols., (Paris, 1914-1921), vol. 1, p. 395.
  2. A. Estignard, Auguste Clésinger, sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris, 1899), p. 56.
  3. Lami, op. cit., p. 395.
  4. These works were exhibited in the 1863 Salon in Paris under numbers 2299 and 2300.
  5. As he stayed at length in Florence, Clésinger probably knew this very group of Pan and Daphnis from the Uffizi; however, he could have known the Naples example with a panther skin or the example without in Rome, in the National Museum.
  6. This re-interpretation by Clésinger may have been prompted by Reinhold Begas' Pan and Psyche of 1859. Begas was the German artist who had lived next door to the French sculptor Carpeaux in Rome in the late 1850s. Clésinger and Begas could easily have known each other there, and they surely knew each others' work when both were in Paris in the mid-sixties. Begas attained an international reputation, and his sculpture was widely exhibited.
  7. Estignard, op. cit., p. 165. On page 169, in the list of Clésinger's works, Estignard mentions a Faune et Faunesse of 1870, which might refer to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' marble.
  8. François Barbedienne, Bronzes d'Art, 1880.
  9. Estignard, op. cit., p. 100.
  10. I am grateful to Dr. H. W. Janson for suggesting that Ingres' painting influenced Clésinger's composition. Primaticiio's Ulysses and Penelope, now in the Toledo Museum of Art, may also have contributed to the bacchante's pose.
  11. As Bauchery was only a ciseleur, not a goldsmith properly speaking, it is not surprising that no mention of him is made in the standard references on metalwork.
  12. The facts relating to Carrier-Belleuse's early life are compiled from several sources. The two principal references are Achille Ségard's monograph, Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (Paris, 1928), and the article by St. Juirs (René Delorme), "Carrier-Belleuse," in the second volume of the 8 volume Galerie Contemporaine, edited by Paul Lecroix, c. 1876. However, the list of bronziers with whom Carrier-Belleuse collaborated from the 1840s on is supplemented by J. Ramon-Hervaz, "Carrier-Belleuse," Le Boulevard, 21 (May 24, 1863), p. 4. Many of the details are drawn from the diverse sources that I used in assembling the information for my dissertation on Carrier-Belleuse.
  13. “Liste Recompensés, Exposition Union Centrale 1884," Revue des Arts décoratifs, vol. 5 (Paris: Archives Nationales, 1884), F 683, p. 487.
  14. Paul Hourie, in an article published in an anonymous review preserved in the dossier "Carrier-Belleuse," in the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Paris.
  15. Jules Salmson, "Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse" Courrier de 'Art (1887), p. 241. Denière later re-issued the foot soldiers as statuettes, without candelabra L'Arquebusier, is found in the collection of David Barclay, London.
  16. Brockhous, ed., Illustrirter katalog der London Industrie-Ausstellung von 1862, 2 vols. (1863-1864), vol. 2, p. 122.
  17. I know of only two exceptions to this, both of which may be explained by their repetition in different editions, but to date a work solely on the basis of the signature is risky. It should be considered a useful indication rather than a precise statement.
  18. Alfred Darcel, "Bronze et fonte modernes," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 23 (1867), pp. 419-441. The Neo-Greek torchères with the original bases were included in the first exhibition of the Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts, Exposition des Beaux-Arts appliqués à l'Industrie, 1863, no. 7.
  19. Cécile Goldscheider, Rodin, sa vie, son oeuvre, son héritage (Paris, 1962), pp. 15-16, is the most specific indication that Dalou was in Carrier-Belleuse's studio when Rodin entered it in 1864.
  20. Mallet at the Bourdon House, Ltd., Sculpture by Jules Dalou (London, 1964), p. 10.
  21. The quotations are taken from a proclamation in October, 1900, by the municipalities of Lorient and Quiberon, and the information about the initial decision comes from a statement about the statue, both of which we sent to me by Françoise Mosser, archivist for the Archives Departementales du Morbihan, who kindly researched the monument for me. She also sent the photograph of the actual monument.
  22. The sketch, measuring 40 centimeters, is on loan to the Musée Carnavalet from the Petit-Palais, inventory number P.P.S. 274. The second, P.P.S. 296, h. 75 centimeters, is at the Petit-Palais. According to Madame Anne Braunwald, Conservateur chargé de départment des sculptures, both were cast in bronze by A. A. Hébrard in 1907. I am deeply indebted to Madame Braunwald for her generous assistance. In addition to the information on the sketches, she provided photographs of them for me. The plasters are cited in Henriette Caillaux, Dalou, l'homme, l'oeuvre (1935), p. 149, nos. 71 and 72.
  23. Lami, op. cit., p. 5.
  24. Shepherd Gallery, New York, "List of foundries and founders active in Western Europe during the Nineteenth Century," Western Bronzes of the Nineteenth Century (1973). Hébrard was responsible for the posthumous editions of Degas as well as those of Dalou.
  25. Mallet at the Bourdon House, Ltd., op. cit., p. 12. "Normally a first cast was produced, marked "M" (modèle), to be followed by a numbered series, consisting usually of ten bronzes, very rarely twelve . . . ." Number 81 of this exhibition was a bronze of the same series as the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' numbered "12." Another cast is illustrated in the Drouet Collection: 3444, 3445, and 3446. A life-size plaster cast was given by Dalou's daughter to the Ministry of War, which placed it in the Pantheon.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. Jean-Baptiste Auguste Clésinger
    French 1814-1883
    Woman Bitten by a Serpent, 1847
  2. Jean-Baptist August Clésinger
    Bacchante and Faun, 1869
    34-1/2 in. x 26-1/2 in. x 13-1/2 in.
    The John R. Van Derlip Fund
  3. Back of Bacchante and Faun
  4. Jean-Baptiste Auguste Clésinger
    Faune, 1863
    Actual location unknown
    (Photo: A. Estignard, Auguste Clésinger, sa vie at ses oeuvres [Paris, 1899], p. 56)
  5. Jean-Baptiste Auguste Clésinger
    Bacchante, 1863
    Actual location unknown
    (Photo: A. Estignard, Auguste Clésinger, sa vie et ses oeuvres [Paris, 1899], p. 56)
  6. Pan and Daphnis
    (Photo: Uffizi)
  7. Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, 1824-1887
    French, XIX century
    Pair of Torchères
    silver-plated bronze
    109-1/2 in. x 27 in.
    Gift of Mrs. Maud H. Schroll
    74.27.1, 2
  8. Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, 1824-1887
    French, XIX century
    Pair of Torchères
    silver-plated bronze
    109-1/2 in. x 27 in.
    Gift of Mrs. Maud H. Schroll
    74.27.1, 2
  9. Etienne-Maurice Falconet
    Torchères for Palace of Versailles
  10. Eugène Capy
    Neo-Greek Torchères, 1860s
    Christofle, actual location unknown
  11. Jules Dalou
    French, 1838-1902,
    General Hoche, c. 1902
    29 in. x 8-1-1/2 in.
    The William Hood Dunwoody Fund
  12. Jules Dalou
    First plaster sketch of Monument to Hoche
    (Photo: Giraudon)
    On loan to the Museé Carnavalet from the Petit Palais
  13. Jules Dalou
    Second plaster sketch of Hoche
    (Photo: Madame Annie Braunwald)
    Petit Palais
  14. Jules Dalous
    Monument to Hoche
    (Photo: Archives, Départementales du Morbihan)
  15. Sir Richard Westmacott
    Monument to generals Pakenham and Gibbs, 1823)
    (Photo: National Monuments Record)
    London, St. Paul's
  16. Jules Dalou
    Back of bronze Hoche (see figure 11)
Comments (0)
Tags (0)
Source: June Hargrove, "Carrier-Belleuse, Clésinger, and Dalou: French Nineteenth-Century Sculptors," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 61 (1974): 28-43.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009