PAR Pierre LEPAUTRE (Paris, 1660 Paris, 1744) D'APRÈS UN MODÈLE DE FRANCOIS GIRARDON (Troyes, 1628 Paris, 1715)
SAVING HIS FATHER ANCHISE AND HIS SON OF THE FIRE FROM TROIE
France, early 18th century
Bronze with brown
patina H. 54.5 cm, W. 25 cm, D. 26 cm A
masterpiece of French sculpture at the time of Louis XIV, this bronze group with a brown patina showing Aeneas, son of Venus and Anchise, battleship and helmet, leaving Troy in flames carrying his father followed by his young son Ascagne, is a remarkable and dramatic composition of baroque obedience, influenced by Giambologna and Le Bernin, created by two of the greatest sculptors of the end of the reign of the Sun King, François Girardon and Pierre Lepautre. Taken from Aeneid, an unfinished poem by Virgil, the group evokes the flight of Aeneas, at the moment when Troy fell into the hands of the Acheans thanks to the famous trick of Ulysses. Aeneas is depicted in a prancing position, leaning on his left leg, stepping over a fragment of architecture symbolizing the destruction of the city of Troy. He is holding his father Anchise in his arms, the latter raising his eyes to the sky, simply dressed in a drapery around his waist, wearing a cap, and holding the Palladium, the image of Pallas that would become the sacred emblem of the Romans. With his right hand stretched out behind Aeneas' back, Anchise holds the wrist of the young Ascanius, turned towards the city and desperately looking for the eyes of his mother Creusa, Priam's daughter, who has disappeared. The group rests on a leafy mound with a square cross-section and slightly rounded. One will note the superb quality of the base, flanked by grimacing characters, to be compared to the work of André-Charles Boulle. It is a reduction of the original in white marble made between 1697 and 1716 by Pierre Lepautre from a wax sketch that François Girardon had entrusted to him in 1696 (fig. 1).
Executed during the artist's stay at the Académie de France in Rome from 1697, transported to France in 1715 to adorn the garden of the Château de Marly, the work, now kept in the Louvre Museum, signed P. LE-PAUTRE FECIT, 1716, was completed with the help of Jacques Bousseau (fig. 2). A terracotta modello in reduction of the original marble work is now kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (fig. 3). In the 18th century, Lepautre himself had kept a copy in his workshop and Lalive de Jully, the famous introducer of the ambassadors of Louis
XV, also possessed another one. Lepautre's work aroused great interest among eighteenth-century enthusiasts and collectors, who took the trouble to own a reduced version in bronze. The major auctions of the period are very revealing of this craze and mention in particular the presence of bronze groups similar to ours in the cabinet of Monsieur de Selle, treasurer general of the Navy, at the home of the painter Pierre Le Brun, or in the Peters collection sold in Paris on March 9, 1779. Among the rare examples of these bronzes remaining today, we should mention, in addition to our own, the one from the Seligmann collection, acquired in 1962 by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada (fig. 4), and the one kept in Cambridge, Massachusetts (U.S.A.), at the Harvard Art Museum. It is also worth mentioning the copy that was exhibited in New York in 1968 by Mr. Noedler, forming lot no. 57 of the exhibition catalogue The French Bronze - 1500 to 1800 published on that occasion.
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