Barye, Le lion au serpent

BARYE Antoine-Louis (Paris, 1796 - Paris, 1875)

Lion au serpent , 1872 (1ère éd. 1838)

Bronze, H.0,350 ; L. 0,370; Prof. 0,200
Legs Alfred Bruyas, 1876.

A free thinker, Barye supplemented his education by attending anatomy classes at the natural history museum; he became a familiar figure at the zoo in the botanical gardens where he met Delacroix, who shared his passion for wild animals. From 1827 to 1833, the two artists worked together, watching dissections of dead animals and gaining an unrivalled knowledge of feline anatomy.

The plaster model for the Lion and Serpent was exhibited at the 1833 Salon and was immediately successful. Louis-Philippe ordered a bronze version, praised by the progressive critics in 1836. Théophile Gautier noted that "Mr Barye is the first to dare show a lion without that Louis XIV wig sculptors used to put on them; he has even dared remove that ridiculous marble ball from under its claws". The sculpture was placed in front of the Tuileries, and made Barye's name. He made a smaller version in 1838, produced and sold throughout his career.

Barye's contribution to animal sculpture is not just his well-documented naturalism: like La Fontaine's animals, these fierce and combative creatures cannot fail to remind us of human passions, making Barye one of the very first Romantic artists. This was probably what attracted the Montpellier collector Alfred Bruyas who, at the end of his life, bought no fewer than twenty-three works by the artist. The only sculptor in his collection, Barye ranks in number and importance on a level with Delacroix or Courbet.

Come and discover this sculpture during the guided tour Arrêt sur une oeuvre in March, on fridays at Noon and on Sundays at 11AM.