Portrait of Jean-Leon Gerome
Purchased through a gift from Jane and W. David Dance, Class of 1940; S.995.11
"M. Carpeaux, let me say very quickly, has something else than gaiety—he has a feeling for the portrait, and he is exhibiting an excellent bust of M. Gérôme . . . where the character of the modeling is ingeniously studied, is surprisingly lifelike; it moves, it breathes, and freedom in execution here has a wonderful aspect."—Paul Mantz, 1872
The son of a mason from Valenciennes, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the studios of two of the most accomplished sculptors of mid-nineteenth-century France, François Rude (1784-1855) and Francisque Joseph Duret (1804-1865). Carpeaux succeeded in winning the Prix de Rome in 1854. By the end of the decade he had firmly established his reputation through a number of accomplished and challenging works, including the superbly modeled Ugolino and His Sons (1857-61).
Carpeaux enjoyed enormous popular success during the remaining years of the Second Empire, securing major commissions for public monuments such as the Fountain of the Observatory in the Luxembourg Gardens (1867-74) and architectural decorations, including most notably an important sculptural group entitled The Dance (1866-69) for the new opera house in Paris, designed by friend and celebrated architect Charles Garnier (1825-1898).
Perhaps the most gifted portraitist of his generation, Carpeaux produced many superb busts of both aristocratic clients and friends, including musicians and artists such as Charles Gounod (1818- 1893) and the acclaimed painter Jean-Leon Gérôme (1824-1904). The latter bust was modeled in 1871 in London, where Carpeaux, Gérôme, and many other French artists had fled to avoid the political strife created by the establishment of the short-lived Commune in Paris at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. His portrait revealed Carpeaux’s remarkable talent for capturing both the likeness and the spirit of his sitter, whose handsome face is animated by the delicate modeling of the surface. Numerous examples of this work were produced in bronze, marble, terra cotta, and, as here, plaster.
Last Updated: 1/18/10