Antoine-Louis Barye Paris, 1795 - 1875 Lion with Snake No. 1
Lion with snake (Lion of the Tuileries)
Bronze with brown patina
Old proof, called Posthumous after his death in 1875
Signed 'BARYE' Dimensions: Height 17cm.
Barye breathes an epic dimension into this fight. He captures a moment where the action is as if suspended. The moment when the two animals are measuring each other is made dramatic by the foreboding of the frenetic struggle that will follow. Although the lion has the advantage, his vigilance is on alert, as shown by the partially extended claws, the position of the tail, and the bristly mane. Tension is at its peak. The snake, with its head thrown backwards and coiled in a spiral, its jaws gaping, is ready to pounce on the lion's face. The tense energy of the lion responds: the frowning cad, the terrible eye, the front paw powerfully pressed against the reptile, its body is nothing more than muscles. Animals possess a power of life and death, which is enough to fascinate the romantics. The size of the sculpture reinforces the impression.
Comment: Exhibited at the Salon of 1833, the plaster of Barye's 'Lion with Snake' was praised by the critics who praised both the very naturalist rendering and the intensity of this scene reproduced in real size. A lost wax cast made by Honoré Gonon was presented at the Salon of 1836 and acquired by Louis-Philippe to be installed in the Jardin des Tuileries where it remained until 1911 before joining the collections of the Louvre.
The effect on the Parisian public of the fight between these two wild animals is best summed up by Alfred de Musset in the 'Revue des Deux-Mondes': "Mr. Barye's bronze lion is as frightening as nature itself. What vigor and truth! This lion roars, this snake whistles. What rage in that squeaky cad, in that oblique look, in that bristling back! What power in that paw resting on the prey! And what a thirst for battle in this tortuous monster, in this hungry and gaping mouth! "(quoted by Eugène Guillaume in the preface of Roger Ballu's work, 1890).
The 'Lion with the Snake' was one of Barye's most resounding successes and remains one of his most emblematic works to this day.
Pierre Kjellberg - Bronzes of the 19th century, page 66. Benoistl, The Romantic Sculpture page 209- 215. Fuco P and Jansen H W The Romantics to Rodin. French Nineteenth Century Sculpture from North American collections, exhibition catalog, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1980, n 17. Benge G F Antoine-Louis Barye, Sculptor of romantic realism, Pennsylvania, p.34-37.
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