1st quarter of the 20th century
height 49 cm
A similar model is reproduced in "Jules Desbois sculpteur", R. Huard, P. Maillot, Le cherche midi éditeur, Paris, 2000, page 77.
Jules Desbois (1851-1935) was a French sculptor and medalist. After a course in a workshop in Tours, Desbois integrated the workshop of Henri Bouriché in Angers. In 1874, he went to study at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. He stayed there five years and perfected his technique in the studio of Jules Cavelier, former student of David d'Angers. In 1878, Desbois met Auguste Rodin on the site of the former Trocadero Palace and befriended him. The same year, he decided to try his luck in the United States, but he did not make a fortune and returned to France three years later. He turned to rotogravure for a while, until he met Rodin again, who needed collaborators because receiving a large number of commissions. Desbois returned to sculpture and worked at the master's studio as a practitioner in 1884. In 1887, he discovered the octogenarian Italian model, Maria Caira, who served him for the creation of "La Misère", and which inspired Rodin and to Camille Claudel works such as "She who was the beautiful Heaulmière", "Winter" and "Clotho".
The collaboration with Auguste Rodin played a key role in the artistic evolution of Jules Desbois. Rodin taught him to free himself from the shackles of his classical training to develop a more personal aesthetic. Both artists inspired and influenced each other. Desbois was gaining notoriety and receiving more and more orders, including from the French State. He also participated in many Salons. That in 1894 of the National Society of Fine Arts where he exhibited "La Misère", sculpture of an elderly woman with a gaunt look that made a sensation, ensured him the consecration. In 1896, the National Society of Fine Arts devoted a personal exhibition. In 1898, he joined the group of "L’Art dans Tout". Desbois produced models of edition, often statuettes of women, but also utilitarian objects intended to be reproduced such as tidies, plates, to make enter the art into everyday life. In 1930, weakened by health problems, Desbois definitely stopped carving to devote himself to pastel and died five years later.
Yet considered as one of the best sculptors of his century, Desbois fell into oblivion after his death, and his works are scattered. In addition, his collaboration with Rodin overshadowed his work, history retaining only the name of the master. Desbois worked with a variety of materials, using stone, marble, bronze, wood and plaster, but also tin for the decorative arts, producing a rich and varied work. He drew mainly his inspiration from ancient myths, allegorical figures, but also from contemporary subjects inspired by the wars of 1870 and 1914-1918. He also was a good portraitist who faithfully reproduced the features of his models. In the nineteenth century, scientific observation of the body played a vital role in art. Jules Desbois was very interested in the composition of the movement and its artistic expression. Perfect connoisseur of human anatomy, he didn't hesitate to play on the proportions and the deconstruction of certain parts of the body to obtain a harmonious and expressive visual result. He represented mainly women, whose body curves and roundness allowed him to express the virtuosity of his modeling. Like his contemporaries Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, Jules Desbois was interested in the human condition, the passage of time and its effects on the human body. Desbois thus produced a certain number of works related to the depiction of death, misery and old age striking with realism and humanity, in a style quite different from academicism.