This pair of bust was the subject of an illustrated article written by the specialist in Flemish sculpture Alain Jacobs, available on request.
Son of a sculptor and stonemason, Lambert de Hontoire, Jean-Arnold, known as Arnold de Hontoire, occupies a prominent place in the Liège sculpture school which flourished during the Baroque period around the personality of the sculptor Jean Del Cour (Hamoir 1627 - Liège 1707).
The latter had spent ten years in Italy, in particular in Rome where he went in 1648. On his return, he introduced in Liège a very personal and exacerbated form of the Bernini baroque, and imposed it in the fiery city as the standard of good taste until the middle of the following century. No Liège sculptor escaped his influence, and when in 1672, de Hontoire in his turn made the trip to Rome, the study of contemporary Roman sculpture strengthened his attachment to the essentially ornamental character of the draperies, generally abundant and agitated, which nervously envelop statues and busts. At the end of the 17th century, de Hontoire took center stage. In 1689, he became the appointed sculptor of the chapter of Saint-Lambert cathedral, thus securing an important part of the ecclesiastical orders of the city, making altars, statues and funerary monuments; in addition, from 1697 to 1699 he worked on the embellishment of St. Michael's Chapel at Bad Godesberg, near Bonn. To honor his work, he surrounded himself with many students and collaborators including Cornelis Van der Veken (Mechelen 1666-Liège 1740), Renier Panhay de Rendeux (Liège 1684-1744), Renier Louis Laroche or even Robert Verbure [...] . Hontoire was unquestionably Del Cour's best and most original epigone, and for scholars he was its most serious competitor. Unfortunately, an important part of his work has disappeared [...].
As for the attribution of the two busts to Arnold de Hontoire, the comparison with the artist's listed works leaves little doubt to the hesitation. In each of the sculptor's works, we recognize the same type of face, with a small mouth and strongly emphasized almond eyes, as well as a slightly prominent chin. These same characteristics are found in the face of the large statue of Saint John the Evangelist in the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Liège. Repertiorated so far as an unknown author, it is very likely that it was the work of Arnold de Hontoire. As for the abundant curly hair of Christ as a child which plastically balances the tortuous drapery of the bust, it is close to that of this statue, and is found in some other pieces of the artist, such as the angel of the Angel group. guardian of the Saint-Rémy church. This testifies to the indisputable qualities of this bust, as of its counterpart.
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