Offered by Desmet Galerie
Model by Pierre Lepautre (1659 – 1744 & François Girardon (1628 – 1715)
France, early 19th century
40 cm high x 20 cm x 20 cm base
In 1683 Pierre Lepautre won the prestigious Prix de Rome, thanks to which he resided until 1701 in Rome, working prolifically as a pensionnaire at the Académie de France. A portrait of him by Nicolas de Largillière, dated 1689, now in the Norton Simon Museum in California, shows our artist standing under what appears to be a classical colonnade, clad in a flowing crimson cloak and dressed in a fine black coat with golden embroidery. Confident, almost exuberant, Lepautre turns proudly towards the viewer whilst pointing at the monumental all’antica vase behind him. This carefully observed likeness perfectly captures the young sculptor at the beginning of his highly successful career. Little known today, throughout the years Lepautre was involved in some of the most prominent artistic commissions of his age, including sculptures for the gardens at Marly (King Louis XIV’s private residence), Meudon and La Muette, the royal chapel at Versailles and the monumental gateway in the church of Saint-Eustache, Paris. ??
It is for the Château de Marly that, in 1697, Lepautre began what would become two of his most renowned compositions: the over life-size marble groups of Paetus and Arria and Aeneas and Achises with Asacanius (both now in the Louvre, Paris). The latter was inspired by a design by the King’s sculptor François Girardon, who had personally entrusted a wax model of it to Lepautre in April 1696. Now lost, this bozzetto is recorded in the Galerie de Girardon, plate VI, under number 14 (fig. 1). ??The subject is a very well known one, most famously recounted in Virgil’s Latin epic poem Aeneid (c. 29-19 BC). Aeneas - son of the goddess Venus, hero of the Trojan War and forefather to the founders of Rome - escapes from the flames engulfing his besieged native Troy carrying his ageing father Anchises to safety. His young son Ascanius trails behind, searching in vain for his mother Creusa, daughter of King Priam, lost in the fire. Anchises holds with one hand a small statue of Minerva, representing the family’s household gods, known as the Lares. ??Making full use of Girardon’s invenzione, Lepautre conveys the dramatic nature of this episode through the elaborate arrangement of the figures on three levels and facing in three different directions. Aeneas strides forward with determined might, holding in his arms his father, whose uplifted body tilts slightly backwards, as his eyes look to the heavens and his right hand holds onto his grandson Ascanius. The young boy, entirely shielded by his father from a frontal viewpoint, but for the tiny hand that clutches Anchises’, hesitates, his right arm stretched out as if still holding onto his mother’s grasp. ??A terracotta of the group, signed and dated 1715 by Lepautre, is today in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. A.37-1939), whilst one of the artist’s sketches for it, formerly in the possession of the artist David d’Angers (1788-1856), was donated by his widow to the Angers Museum (see Notice des peintures et sculptures du Museée d'Angers, 1870, p. 238, no. 759).
Bronze versions of note include the one in the National Gallery of Ontario (formerly Seligmann collection, Paris; 54 cm high) and the one in Harvard’s Art Museums (55 cm high). Our bronze is rendered all the more vibrant by its carefully textured surface. Details such as the chiselling of the ground the figures stand on, or the decorations on Aeneas’ helmet and cuirass, are deftly executed by Lepautre and testify to the remarkable quality of this cast. ??An enduring testimony of the success enjoyed by Lepautre’s Aeneas composition is its presence in the portrait of the sculptor by Jean Le Gros (1671-1745), now in the Musée Carnavalet, Paris. Painted in 1729, it shows a more mature, composed character compared to the dashing young man immortalised by Largillière, with his hands resting on a collection of sketches, wearing a refined yet more sombre dress and cloak. His gaze, however, retains the same clarity and determination, as it turns away from the viewer seemingly looking at his career’s achievements, the major one standing close-by.
RELATED LITERATURE ?The French Bronze: 1500 to 1800, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1968, no. 57 ?F. Souchal, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th centuries. The reign of Louis XIV, vol. II, London, 1981, pp. 375-378, no. 9
Delevery information :
We can arrange shipping.
35 000 €
12 000 €
4 200 €
24 500 €