Jean Coulon was a French sculptor who was born in Ébreuil (Allier) April 17, 1853 and died at Vichy (Allier) January 5, 1923. Son of Nicolas Coulon, a stonecutter, Coulon later settled in Clermont-Ferrand. In 1876 he moved to Paris and entered the Ėcole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, in the sculpture studio of Cuvelier (1814-1894). Coulon entered his first exhibition at the Salon in 1880. He submitted The Death of Pyramus and was awarded a third place medal. His submission was ultimately purchased by the state for the town of Dinan. Coulon’s success with mythological subjects lasted until 1890, when the subject no longer seemed to interest clients or the public. In 1895 he produced a bust of the poet Theodore de Banville from a drawing by Rochegrosse, step-son of the poet. Some of Coulon’s works -specifically the busts of Gabriel Delarue, Joseph Hennequin and later a statue entitled The Big Ferre, were destroyed during the war.
The subject of this sculpture is drawn from classical mythology. Hebe, Greek goddess of youth and young brides, the attendant of Venus, and most importantly the cupbearer to the gods, was the daughter of Juno and Jupiter. As cupbearer she served ambrosia (a drink that reinforced the god's immortality) at feasts on Mount Olympus. Here she is seen serving the great golden eagle, Jupiter's personal messenger and animal companion, who holds a thunderbolt between his claws. From the beginning of the nineteenth century the subject of Hebe offering nectar to the eagle was a popular way for artists to depict innocence and beauty with a hidden eroticism. The subject was a popular one amongst 19th century sculptors. Versions with the same theme were articulated by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse as well as by Francois Rude.