About 1874, cast after 1879
Purchased through a gift from Jane and W. David Dance, Class of 1940; S.999.5.2
Winner of the Prix de Rome as a young student, recipient of numerous medals awarded at the annual Salons held in Paris, and later a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercié achieved his greatest critical success at the start of his long and distinguished career with the exhibition of works such as David Victorious (1872) and Gloria Victis. First shown as a plaster at the Salon of 1874, Gloria Victis (“Glory to the Vanquished”) was greeted with acclaim and perceived by the public as a response to France’s humiliating defeat by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Indeed, it was said that the image of the young warrior borne aloft by a winged female figure was intended by Mercié to honor Henri Regnault (1843-1871), a friend and fellow artist who had died in the conflict.
Because it so eloquently expressed a sense of sacrifice and loss with an affirmation of the proud and resurgent spirit of France, Gloria Victis enjoyed an immediate and long-lasting popularity. In the decade after its initial exhibition, replicas were commissioned to adorn monuments to those who served in the Franco-Prussian War in cities and towns throughout France, and reproductions in bronze in a variety of sizes could be ordered from the Barbedienne foundry, which cast this version. Equally appealing to contemporary taste was Mercié’s thoughtful transformation of a classical model (the third-century BCE Greek sculpture of Winged Victory in the collection of the Louvre) that he used as the basis for this composition. Moreover, his chaste yet sophisticated modeling of the forms and surfaces of the two figures reflected a deep appreciation of the work of the Florentine sculptors of the Renaissance.
Last Updated: 1/18/10