Abduction of Hippodamie (L'Enlevement)
Purchased through a gift from Jane and W. David Dance, Class of 1940; S.999.5.1
Ovid’s early-first-century account of the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs at the wedding of the Lapith king Pirithous to Hippodamia served as the inspiration for this superb bronze by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. The sculptor chose to depict a key moment in this myth, when the intoxicated Centaur Eurytus seized the bride in a fit of passion and precipitated the violent melee that ended with the defeat of the Centaurs and the triumph of reason and order over base instinct.
Carrier-Belleuse’s choice of this subject (Hippodamia means “tamer of horses” in ancient Greek) was entirely appropriate, because the first version of this subject was commissioned as a prize, cast in solid silver, that was awarded by the Jockey Club at the celebrated horse races in the Bois de Boulogne in 1874. Shortly thereafter he revised the design—presumably to sidestep a contractual obligation that the prize be unique—by making several changes, most notably altering Hippodamia’s position and modeling the figure of the Centaur more vigorously. The resulting work surely ranks amongst the finest small sculptures produced in France in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was also one of the most animated of Carrier-Belleuse’s compositions, and in this respect fully Baroque in its spirit—both in terms of the rich modeling of the surfaces of the Centaur and Hippodamia, who swoons in an attitude of near erotic abandon in his grasp, and the complex, interlocking poses of these two figures.
One of the most widely admired artists of his time, Carrier- Belleuse received his initial training in the workshop of a goldsmith and achieved early success as a designer for manufacturers of decorative objects in porcelain and metalwork. By the late 1850s he had begun to exhibit at the annual Salons in Paris and thereafter enjoyed a regular stream of commissions from both public and private patrons for work in many different genres. In addition to maintaining a lifelong interest in the decorative arts, which culminated with his appointment as artistic director of the great porcelain manufactory at Sèvres, Carrier-Belleuse was also a gifted teacher who trained a number of the most important sculptors of the succeeding generation.
Last Updated: 1/18/10