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Melpomene by Pierre Eugène Emile Hébert (Fr. 1828-1893)

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Directory: Archives: Fine Art: Pre 1900: Item # 1133267

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Pierre Eugène Emile Hébert (French, 1828-1893)

Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy

Bronze with golden patina on black slate base

Statue Size: 17” x 13.5”
Base Size: 19 ” x 7” x 2.5”
(Minor Repairs to Base)

Melpomene was one of the nine Muses. She was originally the goddess of song and her name derived from the Greek meaning “to celebrate with dance and song”. In classical times when the Muses were assigned specific associations with the arts, she became the Muse of tragedy and is usually depicted with a tragic mask, as she is here. This Melpomene also holds a knife and a footed shallow drinking bowl known as a kylix (possibly used for poisoning?) as symbols that might be involved with tragedies. She is seated on a klismos chair, dressed in a classical robe and wears cothurnes sandals like those typically worn by Greek tragic actors.

Pierre Eugène Emile Hébert was born in Paris in 1828. There he first studied with his father the sculptor Pierre Hébert and later worked in the studio of Jean-Jacques Feuchére. He is primarily noted for his genre and classical groups which he exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1849 onward. He was also known for his official sculptures for public buildings including a commemorative monument to Francois Rabelais (bronze, 1880). Some of his works include Mephistopheles (plaster and bronze), Bellerophon (bronze), Semiramis (bronze) and the somewhat macabre figure group And Always! And Never! (marble and bronze). This group of a maiden swooning in the arms of a skeletal lover elicited an enthusiastic response from Charles Baudelaire in his review of the Salon of 1859.

Benezit, E. Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs
Mackay, James, The Dictionary of Western Sculptors in Bronze
Turner, Jane, ed., The Grove Dictionary of Art