Jane Horswell, Bronze Sculpture of Les Animaliers, 1971
A 19th century French animalier bronze group of two whippets at play with a ball, ‘Jiji’ (standing) and ‘Gisella’ (crouching) by Pierre-Jules Mêne. Signed Mêne to oval base and the foundry mark ‘Coalbrookdale’ incised to the rim. The bronze has a nice rich dark brown patina. No. 93 in Mêne's catalogue. Model exhibited in the Salon of 1848 in plaster.
Mêne's work was greeted in Britain with as much enthusiasm as his native France and he exhibited at the Great Exhibitions of 1851 and 1862 and becoming known here as the 'Landseer of sculpture'. This success led to the famous Coalbrookdale Company in Scotland making copies of his work in the 19th century.
Mêne was one of the most successful and prolific animalier sculptors of his day. He was born in Paris in 1810 in Rue de Faubourg St. Antione. His father, Doninique, was a skilled metal turner who taught his son not only the basics of metal foundry and the work of a 'ciseler', but also the principles of sculpture. He developed his natural talents as an animal sculptor under sculptor René Compaire making detailed sketches of the animals in the zoo at the Jadin des Plantes which he used as his models. He cast his own sculptures and quickly made a reputation for himself.
In 1838 he exhibited a group of a 'Dog and Fox' at the French Salon in bronze and established his own foundry in the same year, exhibiting one or more models almost every year until his death, with entries accepted on his behalf after his death until 1879. In recognition of his work he received the first class medal at the Salon twice and was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1861.
Mêne issued a combined catalogue of his works with his son-in-law, animalier sculptor Auguste Cain, from Rue L'Entrepot where he lived and worked from 1857 onwards. His friends included fellow sculptors, painters and musicians and his house became a meeting place for those working in the arts.
Mêne's style differed to that of Antoine-Louis Barye, as he concentrated on the more delicate side of animal life giving his subjects a character and natural empathetic appeal of their own, capturing in bronze an animated moment in an animal's life.
Examples of his work can be found in the Louvre and the Ashmoleon in Oxford and he continues to be one of the most collected animalier sculptors today.
Pierre-Jules Mêne (1810-1879), Two whippets at play with a ball, c.1870
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British and European paintings and sculpture from the 16th To 19th century