Bronze with a nuanced dark brown patina
cast by SIOT-DECAUVILLE
late 19th century
height 22 cm
length 20,5 cm
Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier said Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) was a French painter and sculptor, specialized in military historical painting. Painter very concerned with the authentic detail, he was part of the movement of historical realism, which appeared in the visual arts under the Second Empire. Honored, he sat at the Academy of Fine Arts and chaired many national and international juries. As a child, he already showed a certain talent for drawing. He left Lyon at 17 and entered the studio of the painter Léon Cogniet where he learned to paint. He attended the preparation of the painting of a ceiling for the Louvre Museum representing the Egyptian expedition, a historical reconstruction that allowed him to have his first contacts with the military painting. Meissonier began at the Salon of 1834 with the Flemish Bourgeois. He was successively a painter of fans and pious images for the publishers of the rue Saint-Jacques, then tried to illustrate with talent for the publisher Curmer.
Ernest Meissonier began his career as a painter in a classical register, with genre scenes depicting everyday life in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. He obtained a growing success, so much so that he even came to compare him to the Flemish masters to whom he himself was very much attached. But it was by painting military scenes, focused mainly around the Napoleonic campaigns, that the artist obtained the official honors (officer of the Legion of Honor in 1856, commander in 1867). He was elected a member of the Academy of Fine Arts in 1861. Ernest Meissonier remained, with Alfred de Dreux, Ange Tissier, Adolphe Yvon and Franz Xaver Winterhalter, among the painters that Napoleon III considered the most talented servants of imperial glory . Meissonier consistently applied the same meticulousness of historian in all the preparatory work of his works, which made him a reference in terms of uniformity. In 1886, this prolific painter had some 400 paintings to his credit. In 1890, Meissonier participated with Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Carolus-Duran, Felix Bracquemond, Jules Dalou, Auguste Rodin and Carrier-Belleuse, in the refoundation of the National Society of Fine Arts. It belonged to the academic artistic current also called "firefighter". He was considered during his lifetime as one of the greatest masters of contemporary painting.
If the carved work of Ernest Meissonier remained little exposed, sometimes in the shadow of his painted work, his sculptures were nevertheless presented after his death at the Georges Petit gallery in March 1893 with 11 waxes, but also at the École des fine arts of Paris where were exposed five bronzes and some original waxes. It was not until 1993 that Ernest Meissonier's sculpted work was presented for the first time, almost completely, during the retrospective devoted to it by the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon. It was agreed that the sculptural works of Ernest Messonier must be understood as a prerequisite for his paintings. Indeed, the realist research in the artist's work consisted above all in the meticulous preparation of his painted representations, for which he createed sculpted models. The sculpture was thus the preliminary step to the painting, the three-dimensional representation of the figures realized to feel the movement of the characters and to understand the games of light in order to give a painted representation as realistic as possible. The preparatory origin of the sculpture explains on the one hand the fact that it has been little exposed, but also justified the use of wax for sculptures, a very malleable material that was very poorly preserved. This desire to be closer to reality to arouse emotion was a characteristic of romanticism in nineteenth-century painting.