James Pradier -Sapho a la Colonne-19th century Female musician Bronze sculpture
size 8 x 8 x 16"
Jean-Jacques Pradier was a Swiss-born French sculptor best known for his work in the neoclassical style. In 1807, Pradier left his birthplace of Geneva to work in Paris with his elder brother, an engraver. He won the Prix de Rome, which enabled him to study in Rome from 1814-1818. He studied under Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres in Paris. In 1827, he became a member for the Academie des Beaux-Arts and a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Pradier oversaw the finishing of his sculptures himself. He was a friend of the Romantic poets Alfred de Musset, Victor Hugo and Theophile Gautier, and his atelier was a center for these luminaries, presided over by his beautiful mistress, Juliette Drouet, who married Hugo in 1833.
The cool, neoclassical surface finish of his sculptures is charged with an eroticism that their mythological themes can barely disguise. At the Salon of 1834, Pradier's Satyr and Bacchante created a scandalous sensation. Some claimed to recognize the features of the sculptor and his mistress, Drouet. When the prudish government of Louis-Phillippe refused to purchase it, Count Anatole Demidoff bought it and took it to his palazzo in Florence. (It has since moved to the Louvre).
Other famous and less controversial sculptures by Pradier are the figures of Fame in the spandrels of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and his twelve Victories inside the dome of the Invalides (Napoleon's tomb). Pradier is buried in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. Most of the contents of his studio were bought up after his death by the city museum of Geneva.In 1846, Gustave Flaubert said of him: "This is a great artist, a true Greek, the most antique of all moderns; a man who is distracted by nothing, not by politics, nor socialism, and who, like a true workman, sleeves rolled up, is there to do his task morning til night with the will to do well and the love of his art."Pradier's Sappho was first shown in bronze at the 1848 Paris Salon (coll. Of H.M Queen Elizabeth II, Osborne House, Isle of Wight). The version exhibited at the Salon was twice the size of the present cast, and like this work featured the Greek poet Sappho leaning gracefully against an Ionic column. The larger version also included a pair of cooing doves and a scroll displaying the Greek verses from her Ode to Venus (Sappho I, 25 8): "Goddess, come again today, take away my cruel torments, make the wishes of my heart come true, do not refuse me your help." In addition to the aforementioned bronze salon version (Dahesh Museum, New York), another model of this sculpture was cast in solid silver (The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, England).