Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse was both a French designer and one of the most prolific, versatile and significant sculptors of the 19th century. He was apprenticed at age 13 to a goldsmith and studied at both the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1840 under Pierre-Jean David d’Angers and at the Petit Ecole where he concentrated on the decorative arts. He worked in London from 1850 to 1855, designing ceramics and metalwork models. When he returned to Paris, he regularly exhibited large scale sculptures at the Salon where he consistently received medals and important commissions. His first important success was in 1863 when the Emperor Napoleon III bought the life-size marble Bacchante with a Herm of Dionysus and then hired him to work on the rebuilding of Paris. During his lifetime Carrier-Belleuse produced portrait busts, public monuments, religious statuary and idealized works. He took full advantage of the commercial opportunities afforded him by the mass production of small-scale sculpture and decorative wares. His work reflected an extensive range of different styles. His male portraits were strikingly realistic, while his female nude sculptures were sensuous and baroque in their portrayal of historical and mythological themes that are typical of the opulent Second Empire period. He signed his works A. Carrier until c.1868 when he adopted the name Carrier-Belleuse.
Carrier-Belleuse maintained one of the largest ateliers in France in order to keep up with all his commissions and activities. Some of the leading sculptors of the next generation, including Auguste Rodin, Jules Dalou and Alexandre Falguière, learned from the master to appreciate the value of the applied arts as well as the benefits to be derived from working in series, editions and variations on a sculptural theme as in his female nudes.
The Abduction of Hippodamie is widely considered one of the finest examples of late 19th century Neoclassical French sculpture, the result of a collaboration between Carrier-Belleuse and Rodin, the latter of whom was associated with the former’s studio in the 1870s. From an Academic perspective, the accepted opinion is that the subject matter and lines of Hippodamie exemplify the style of Carrier-Belleuse, while the expression and musculature of the centaur suggest the hand of Rodin. The subject is derived from Greek mythology. During the wedding of Hippodamie and Pirithous, the barbaric centaurs attending the event as guests became belligerently intoxicated and began attacking the hosts and other attendees. The centaur Carrier-Belleuse depicts is Eurytus, who attempted to kidnap and take advantage of the bride. Thus ensued a battle between the Lapiths and the centaurs. The overly-defined musculature of the centaur contrasts strongly with the lithe body of the struggling maiden, stressing the centaur’s inhuman bestiality. The sculpture’s thematic focus is the struggle between the rational and the animalistic, a common motif in 19th century European art.
Bowman Sculpture Gallery, London
TEFAF Maastricht, March 9-19, 2017
Lampert, Catherine, ed., Rodin: Sculpture & Drawings, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986, ill. p. 6., fig. 10 (another example)
P. Fusco and H. Janson, The Romantics to Rodin, exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1980, pp. 164-166, no. 50 (another example)
T. Barton Thurber, European Art at Darmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2008, pp. 90-91, ill. pp. 90/91, no. 42 (another example)
Draper, James David, European Terra Cottas from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981, p. 28 (another example)
Hargrove, June Ellen, The Life and work of Albert Carrier-Belleuse, New York: Garland Publishers, 1977