A monument to Antoine Louis Barye

ANTIQUES Staff

ANTIQUES Staff

From The Magazine ANTIQUES, October 2006

In June 18, 1894, a crowd gathered in the small park on the southeastern tip of the Île Saint-Louis in Paris to listen to Eugène Guillaume (1822-1905) dedicate a monument (Fig. 3) to Antoine Louis Barye, the French sculptor and painter who, during the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, had popularized the art of the animalier, or specialist in animal subjects, in both France and abroad. Guillaume, an academic sculptor, had served as the titular president of the committee that erected the memorial, but much of the organizational work, including raising funds and overseeing construction, had fallen to an American expatriate, George A. Lucas (1824-1909). Indeed, the execution of the project, which was largely dismantled during World War II, represented the combined efforts of Barye’s French friends and staunch American admirers.

The architect Stanislas Louis Bernier conceived the design for the monument as a pier with three extensions at its base, each supporting a sculpture (Fig. 1). A portrait medallion of Barye based on a plaster model provided by the sculptor Laurent Honoré Marqueste (1848-1920) was set in the middle of the sixteen-foot-tall shaft. The other sculptural elements represented four of Barye’s most renowned compositions, each dating from a critical moment in his career. Resting on the front projection was an over life-sized, posthumous bronze cast of Lion and Serpent, a subject he had begun work on in 1832 and first exhibited as a plaster (along with nine other smaller works) at the Paris Salon of 1833 (see Fig. 6). The Lion and Serpent was significant on a number of levels. In the emotional intensity of the subject and its terrifying realism it confirmed Barye’s role as an avant-garde romantic artist, and it also served to elevate animal subjects, as opposed to human figurative themes, to a level of public acceptance that was without precedent. Not only was Barye awarded the cross of the Legion of Honor for his Salon entries, but at the behest of the king, Louis Philippe (r. 1830-1848), the state purchased the plaster and commissioned a marble version. The sculptor subsequently produced a bronze that was exhibited in 1836 and installed that year in the gardens of the Palais des Tuileries,1 where it fueled the controversy in academic circles regarding the elevated position then being given to animal subjects. Nonetheless, the success of Lion and Serpent assured Barye the patronage of members of the royal family, the most significant being a commission for five exotic hunt groups for the celebrated table centerpiece for Ferdinand Philippe (1810-1842), duc d’Orléans (see Fig. 7).

It is possible that Barye had an ulterior motive in producing Lion and Serpent. The symbolic connections between lions and royalty are familiar, but the sculpture bears more particular associations with the July Monarchy (1830-1848) of Louis Philippe, for it was the revolution on July 27 to 29, 1830, that overthrew the last of the Bourbon kings and brought the House of Orléans to power. These three days fell under the astrological signs of Leo and the Hydra, which are represented by a lion and serpent, respectively.

Perhaps because Lion and Serpent was one of his most popular sculptures, Barye reworked it twice, and each of the three versions was cast in a range of sizes. In what is thought to have been his favorite rendering, now known as Lion and Serpent No. 3 (Sketch) (Fig. 8), the lion backs away from the threatening snake and rather than crushing it beneath his paw, prepares to strike it. A loose sheet of sketches illustrates the artist’s development of this composition (Fig. 4).

Barye’s development as an animalier can be traced to his employment from 1820 to 1828 with the master goldsmith Jacques Henri Fauconnier (1779-1839). At the Exposition des produits de l’industrie française in Paris in 1823, Fauconnier exhibited a large vase decorated with lion motifs2 as well as an array of some sixty small animal subjects-all said to have been modeled by Barye. In the same year, when he was requested to produce a model of a deer to serve as a handle for a soup tureen, Barye chose to work directly from nature in the Jardin des Plantes-the Paris zoological and botanical gardens-rather than merely repeat the forms traditionally found in rococo silver. Poverty-stricken at this time, he managed to gain access to the animal cages at five o’clock each morning through the generosity of a sympathetic keeper who also provided him with food originally intended for the bears. For the remainder of his career, Barye frequented the Jardin des Plantes to study and sketch both living animals and corpses. From 1854 until his death, he served as professor of zoological drawing in the Jardin’s natural history department, and counted Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) among his pupils.3 Barye’s numerous drawings in sketchbooks or on separate scraps of paper attest to both his scrupulous attention to detail and the acuteness of his observations (Fig. 5). So sound was his knowledge of the anatomy of animals that he had little difficulty in modeling subjects such as the Lion and Serpent, which portrays a combat that he could never actually have witnessed, especially since he never left Paris and its immediate environs.

Discouraged by the jury’s rejection of several of his hunt groups for the duc d’Orléans centerpiece at the Salon of 1837 and of five other works in 1843, Barye refused to participate in the Salons for thirteen years. Instead, he devoted himself to working as a bronzier, creating models for small sculptures that could be issued in multiple editions to serve as ornaments in the houses of his clientele, the rapidly expanding French bourgeoisie. In doing so, rather than casting the pieces solely by himself, he relied on the numerous recently established foundries in Paris that specialized in artistic bronzes. Using sand-casting as opposed to the more costly lost-wax process and working with the Collas machine, a pantographic device that transferred a design from an original model to a scaled version, these foundries were able to reproduce works in various sizes.4 In 1845, out of financial necessity, Barye was obliged to enter into partnership with an engineer and entrepreneur, Émile Martin (1794-1871), to establish Barye et Compagnie, a commercial enterprise that was largely controlled by Martin. Through this agreement, which remained in effect for twelve years, Barye supplied the models and Martin was responsible for engaging the foundries, hiring the chasers, gilders, and specialists in mounting bronzes; and for marketing the sculptures.

At the top of the monument on the Île Saint-Louis was an enlarged version of Centaur and Lapith, a work that Barye had conceived between 1846 and 1848 (Fig. 2) and exhibited as a plaster in a somewhat more compressed upright form at the Salon of 1850 (see Fig. 9), his first Salon in many years. The Salon version, commissioned by the new republican government in 1849, served as the basis for the monumental bronze, nearly thirteen feet in height, that was produced by the foundry of Ferdinand Barbedienne for the Île Saint-Louis monument. Barbedienne had purchased many of Barye’s original models at the sale of the artist’s estate in 1876.5 Although Barye listed the sculpture in his later sales catalogues as Theseus and the Centaur Bianor, the initial literary source is a story in  Ovid’s Metamorphoses (12:342-350), in which the Lapiths, a mythical people of ancient Thessaly, battle the bestial centaurs, who had become inebriated at a wedding feast and attempted to abduct the bride and female guests. The Lapith, represented as a classical nude hero, straddles the centaur’s back and grasps his neck, preparing to deliver a mortal blow with his club.

In addition to Centaur and Lapith, Barye entered a second plaster at the Salon of 1850, Jaguar Devouring a Hare (see Fig. 12).6 The critics acclaimed both works, however different in their subject and style, as masterpieces of modern sculpture. The poet and writer Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), for instance, contrasted Barye’s fresh interpretation of the antique with the debased classicism practiced by the sculptors of the Académie des beaux-arts, the bastion of academic conservatism. He praised Centaur and Lapith as “the triumph of the spirit over material…over the voracious world of animal instinct.”7 By contrast, in Jaguar Devouring a Hare he saw “an evocation of the Sublime, particularly those terrifying, brutal laws of nature over which man has little control.”8 

Set on the lateral projections of the Barye memorial were two allegorical groups carved in marble, Force Protecting Work and Order Punishing Perversity, which were later known simply as Force (see Fig. 15) and Order (see Fig. 16). Each is composed of a seated heroic male figure and a standing youth, both posed against a reclining animal, a lion in Force and a roaring tiger in Order. These groups were reductions of Barye’s stone sculptures at the attic level of the Pavilion Denon of the Louvre. Another pair, representing War and Peace, stands across the courtyard in a corresponding position on the facade of the Pavilion Richelieu. The four works had been commissioned in 1854 by Hector Martin Lefuel (1810-1880), the successor to Louis Visconti (1791-1853) as the architect of the “New Louvre”-the two wings connecting the “Old Louvre” to the Palais des Tuileries.

  • Fig. 1. Monument à Barye, by Stanislas Louis Bernier (1845 -1919), 1891-1892. Inscribed “dresser par l’architecte/Louis Bernier” at lower right. Watercolor on paper, 20 by 13 7⁄8 inches. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

     

     

  • Fig. 2. Centaur and Lapith (also known as Theseus and the Centaur Bianor), by Antoine Louis Barye (1795-1875), modeled c. 1846-1848.  Bronze, height 13 ½ inches. This bronze is a reduction of the initial version of the subject. Walters Art Museum. 

     

     

  • Lion and Serpent, by Barye, modeled c. 1833 and issued c. 1855. Bronze; height 23 13/16, width 28 15⁄16 inches. This particular cast is a half-sized reduction of the 1833 plaster. Baltimore Museum of Art, Jacob Epstein Collection 

  • Sketches of a Lion, by Barye, c. 1832. Graphite on paper, 4 15⁄16 by 6 5⁄16 inches. Among the images on this sheet are a lion’s claw and paw. Walters Art Museum.  

  • Studies of a Lion’s Head and Paw, an Owl, etc., by Barye, 1828. Inscribed “tête de lionne” and “grattes de lionne,” at right.  Graphite on paper, 7 7⁄8  by 4 13⁄16 inches. The handwriting of the inscriptions is identical to that on another drawing in the Walters Art Museum, reading “Lionne de l’amiral Rigny.”  The subject of the latter is a lioness that died in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris on October 16, 1828. 

    Walters Art Museum.

     

     

  • Lion and Serpent No. 3 (Sketch), by Barye, modeled c. 1832. Bronze, height 5 1⁄8, width 6 7⁄8 inches. This sculpture representing the earliest of the artist’s reductions of the subject is said to have been his favorite. Walters Art Museum 

  • Detail of Jaguar Devouring a Hare by Barye, modeled 1850. Bronze; height 16 1⁄8, width 40 7⁄8 inches. Walters Art Museum. 

  • Order Punishing Perversity by Barye, modeled 1855. Bronze; height 39 3/8 inches. Cast at the foundry of Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892) and is in Mount Vernon Place park in Baltimore. This is a reduction of the group (9 1/2 feet in height) modeled for the facade of the Pavilion Denon of the Louvre, where they were difficult to see. They were removed from the pavilion because of weathering and replaced with replicas in 1995.

     

     

  • Entrance to the Barye Exhibition at the École des Beaux-Arts, by Henry Bonnefoy (1839-1917), 1889. Signed and dated “Henry Bonnefoy/89” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 23 ¼ by 28 ¾ inches. Identifiable from right to left are Barye’s Order and Lion and Serpent in plaster, Seated Lion in bronze, and Centaur and Lapith in plaster. Baltimore Museum of Art, George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community.

     

     

  • Elk Hunt, by Barye, modeled and cast 1834-1838. Bronze; height 20 ½, width 20 5/8 inches. This bronze, which was one of five hunt groups made for the duc d’Orléans, was probably the one submitted to the Salon of 1837 as Cavalier avec daim, but it was rejected by the jury. Walters Art Museum.

     

     

So impressed was Lefuel by Barye’s mastery of rendering the human figure that he employed him for other projects, including the design of Napoleon I Dominating History and the Arts for the pediment of the Pavilion Sully of the Louvre, and for the decorative program embellishing the south elevation of the guichets (the high passageways below the Salle des États) at the Carrousel entrance to the Louvre. Of the latter endeavor only the river gods, personified by heroic male figures resting on upturned water urns, remain today. For  the Pavilion Sully pediment Barye designed an equestrian portrait of Napoleon III posed as a Roman Caesar (see Fig. 10), which was produced in bronze by an electrotypic process and installed in 1868, only to be removed two years later with the fall of the Second Empire.9

The decision to erect a monument to Barye was reached at a meeting held at the Hôtel de Ville in November 1887 that included the sculptor Guillaume, who lent a note of status to the project through his position as director general of the Académie des beaux-arts; the foundry owner Barbedienne; the painter Charles Victor Tillot (1825-c. 1886); and Henry Havard (1838-1921), a distinguished French historian of European decorative arts. George Lucas was the only foreigner present. He had sailed to France in 1857 and remained in Paris until his death fifty-two years later. To supplement a family annuity, he served as an art consultant for a number of American acquaintances, visiting artists’ studios and dealers and negotiating purchases. In the process, he assembled a remarkable collection for himself, particularly in the graphic arts, but also including paintings, sculptures, and artists’ palettes.10 Barye’s works in various mediums represented a major strength of his holdings. Indeed, although he lacked the funds to acquire the most major pieces, he did acquire numerous sculptures of exceptional quality. 

Among Lucas’s clients was the Baltimore merchant Frank Frick (1828-1910), for whom, in July 1860, he acquired the first documented examples of Barye’s work to reach the United States: casts of Lion and Serpent and Centaur and Lapith, and three other sculptures. The expatriate’s principal Baltimore client, however, was William T. Walters (1819-1894). With a fortune derived from the wholesale whiskey business and investments in railroads, Walters had begun to collect art in the late 1850s. Finding his loyalties divided after the outbreak of the Civil War, he departed for Europe with his family in 1861, living primarily in Paris until the end of hostilities. While there he continued to collect, relying on Lucas to introduce him to artists and to dealers specializing in contemporary European art. Walters accompanied Lucas to Barye’s shop and residence at 10 quai Céléstins in September 1861, but it was not until the following August that he actually met the sculptor. Walters subsequently developed an intense commitment to Barye’s art, an interest that he shared with his son, Henry (1848-1931), and over the next forty-eight years, the two of them assembled one of the largest American collections of the artist’s output.11 The pride of their holdings were unique pieces, such as the duc d’Orléans’s hunt groups and the Walking Lion, which had been cast in silver to serve as a racing trophy for Napoleon III to present at Longchamps in 1865.

Equally significant was William Walters’s zeal in promoting the reputation of his favorite artist. In 1873, while traveling in the dual capacity as an honorary United States commissioner to the international exhibition held in Vienna that year and as chairman of the Committee on Works of Art for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., he arranged for the latter, scheduled to open the following year, to purchase a cast of every available subject by Barye. Upon learning this news, the sculptor is said to have exclaimed, “Ah Monsieur Walters! My own country has never done anything like that for me.”12 The Corcoran’s first catalogue, published in 1874, lists seventy-six bronzes and characterizes its holdings of Barye’s work as “the largest one to be found, even in Europe.”13 Most of the bronzes were relatively small, but in 1875 Lucas negotiated the acquisition of some larger works including a Centaur and Lapith (Fig. 9) that is identical in composition to the version on the Barye Monument.14

William Walters’s enthusiasm did not wane after Barye’s death. Ten years later, on January 28, 1885, he held what he called a Barye Inauguration-an elaborate social event marking the unveiling in Mount Vernon Place, the park in the center of Baltimore near Walters’s residence, of five Barye sculptures that he had commissioned for the city from Barbedienne the previous year. They included Peace, War, Force (Fig. 15) and Order (Fig. 16), as well as a life-sized Seated Lion of 1846.15 To balance the placement of the Seated Lion at the east end of the square, Walters also donated a cast of Military Courage by Paul Dubois (1829-1905) to be positioned at the west end. In addition, the Barye Inauguration celebrated the opening of the Barye Room, a gallery in Walters’s house devoted to the artist’s sculptures and paintings (Fig. 11). Unfortunately, although both William and Henry Walters permitted the public to visit their house and picture gallery on set days every spring, the cramped conditions of the Barye Room allowed for only a few guests at a time.

Following the announcement of the plans to erect the Barye memorial in November 1887, Walters subscribed five thousand francs to the project. Received next was a pledge of three thousand francs from the French portraitist Léon Bonnat (1833-1922), who was both an ardent collector of Barye’s work and one of Lucas’s clients.16 To raise the remaining funds, the committee decided to hold a comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work in Paris and charge admission fees. The site was to be the École des beaux-arts (see Fig. 13) and the date selected, May 1889, was to coincide with the Exposition Universelle, an event that was expected to attract crowds of visitors to the city. Lucas spent the next seventeen months negotiating loans and handling such matters as locating the models that were to be cast for the exhibition. Eventually 855 entries were included, among them 673 sculptures and 111 paintings in watercolors and oils, in addition to miscellaneous prints, drawings, and memorabilia.

When the Paris exhibition failed to realize its financial objectives, Barye’s American patrons formed the Barye Monument Association of New York with the intent of holding an exhibition in the halls of the American Art Galleries from November 15, 1889, to mid-January 1890. The seventy-year-old Walters, widely recognized as the preeminent Barye collector in the United States, was elected president of the organization, and Henry G. Marquand (1819-1902) and James C. Welling (1825-1894), presidents of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, respectively, served as vice-presidents, along with the New York banker and collector Cyrus J. Lawrence (1833-1908). Much of the responsibility for organizing the exhibition fell to Lawrence, who together with the collector Thomas B. Clarke (1848-1931) and the critic William M. Laffan (1848-1909), selected the works for display. Most of the loans came from William Walters, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the collectors James F. Sutton (c. 1842-1915), Samuel P. Avery (1822-1904), and Major Theodore Kane Gibbs (1840-1909), and also from Lawrence. Other lenders ranged from Theodore Roosevelt to the schoolmistress Bellina Froehlich. Unlike in Paris, the New York exhibition included 123 works by other artists, namely ones associated with “The Phalanx of 1830,” a group of pivotal figures of the romantic era, such as as Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, and Alexandre Gabriel Decamps; and others who represented the naturalist landscape tradition, among them Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau, Jean François Millet, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña, and Jules Dupré. The critic for Scribner’s Magazine noted ironically that it was a pity from the point of view of popularizing Barye that “one of the most remarkable collections of the pictures of the men of 1830 that have ever been assembled” should inevitably have been the most popular part of the Barye presentation.17

A publications subcommittee of the Barye Monument Association assumed responsibility for the literature issued in conjunction with the New York show. It consisted of Laffan, who was the art critic for the New York Times; Charles de Kay (1848-1935); and Alexander W. Drake (1843­­-­1916), a pioneer wood engraver and art editor for Century magazine, and produced both a deluxe and a commercial edition of the catalogue, each opening with a frontispiece showing Millet’s portrait of Barye followed by a preface by Bonnat. The cover of the deluxe edition was printed on expensive laid paper, bound in pseudo-vellum with the title stamped in gold. In addition to the catalogue, the association issued a biography of the artist by de Kay, the first to appear in English. Printed by the DeVinne Press in New York City, it was illustrated with numerous wood engravings, heliogravures, and line-cut prints based on drawings by the painter and writer Kenyon Cox (1856-1919). De Kay dedicated the volume to “William Thompson Walters, first to honor the genius of Antoine Louis Barye with bronzes erected in America, foremost of those who would raise his monument on the Seine.” Altogether, through admission fees, donations, and publications, the association raised $9,620, which when added with the funds raised in France equaled $25,000, the anticipated cost of the monument. Following its unveiling, Bonnat is said to have remarked, “It is one of the finest and most original monuments in Paris.”18 Unfortunately, it remained intact for less than fifty years: during World War II, the bronze components, the Lion and Serpent and the Centaur and Lapith, were melted for the metal. 

A traveling exhibition entitled Untamed: The Art of Antoine Louis Barye, organized by William R. Johnston and Simon Kelly, will open at the Walters Art Museum on February 18, 2007. The catalogue of the same title will be available from Walters Art Museum at 866-804-9387.

William R. Johnston is the associate director and the curator of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

1 It was cast by Honoré Gonon (b. c.1780) and his sons, who were responsible for reviving the lost-wax process as an alternative to the more economical sand-casting technique. With the fall of the house of Orléans, the sculpture was moved from the front of the Tuileries to the Terrasse du bord de l’eau of the Tuileries, and in 1911 it was transferred to the Louvre. The plaster model, dated 1832, is preserved in the Musée d’art et d’histoire in Lisieux, France; and the 1835 bronze is in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. 

2 Henri Bouilhet, L’orfèvrerie française aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (1700-1900), vol. 2 (H. Laurens, Paris, 1910), p. 139.

3 Ruth Butler, The Shape of Genius (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1993), p. 39.

4 Michel Poletti and Alain Richarme catalogued Barye’s known sculptures in Barye: catalogue raisonné des sculptures (Gallimard, Paris, 2000).

5 Barbedienne purchased 126 from a total of 234 lots at the sale. See Joseph Reinis, Appendix A, “The Founders and Editors of Barye’s Bronzes,” in Untamed: The Art of Antoine-Louis Barye (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore and Prestel, Munich, 2006), pp. 242-243.

6 The plaster is in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

7 Théophile Gautier, “Salon de 1850-1,” La Presse (Paris), 20th article May 1, 1851.

8 Ibid.

9 It was replaced by another allegorical group, The Genius of the Arts, modeled by Antonin Mercié (1845-1916).

10 Much of Lucas’s collection is now in the Baltimore Museum of Art; a selection will be on view in A Collector’s Palette: 19th-century French Art from the Lucas Collection, at the museum from October 8 to December 31.

11 The Walters collection, now in the Walters Art Museum, includes 180 bronzes, a variety of models in other mediums, 25 watercolors, 2 oil paintings, and 349 drawings.

12 Quoted in Charles de Kay, Barye: Life and Works of Antoine Louis Barye, Sculptor, with Eighty-six Wood-cuts, Artotypes and Prints in Memory of an Exhibition of His Bronzes, Paintings, and Water-colors held in New York in Aid of the Fund for His Monument in Paris (1889; reprint AMS Press, New York, 1974) p. 115.

13 Catalogue of the Paintings, Statuary, Bronzes…of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D. C., 1874).

14 See Poletti and Richarme, Barye: Catalogue raisonné, No. F 33, p. 109, illus. 60.

15 The first version of Seated Lion had been commissioned by the government of Louis Philippe in 1846 for the Tuileries Gardens, but was later paired with a duplicate cast flanking the riverside entrance to the Louvre’s Pavilion de Flore.

16 Léon Bonnat’s distinguished collection of Barye’s sculptures and paintings, one of the richest in France, is preserved in the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne, France.

17 “The Point of View,” Scribner’s Magazine, vol. 7, no. 115 (January 1890), p. 130.

18 Cited in Cyrus J. Lawrence, The Barye Monument,” Harper’s Weekly, vol. 31 (1894), p. 413.