A Bronze Figure of a Horse at a Barrier
DimensionsHeight: 30 cm (12 in)
Width: 37 cm (15 in)
Depth: 15 cm (6 in)
A Bronze Figure of a Horse at a Barrier by Pierre-Jules Mêne.
The base is inscribed ‘P.J.Mêne’.
French, Circa 1880.
The base inscribed 'P.J.Mêne'.
Pierre-Jules Mêne (1810-71) was the most successful and prolific animal sculptors of his day. He was born into an artisan family living at 84 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, the hub of Parisian craftsmanship, where skilled workers such as furniture manufacturers, sculptors and metalworkers were a part of everyday life.
Mêne’s father Dominique, a skilled metal turner, was a part of this thriving centre and taught his son not only the basics of metal foundry and the work of a ciseleur, but also the principles of sculpture. Mêne began by earning his living modelling for commercial porcelain outlets in a style that had been popularised by Marie-Antoinette and the Sèvres factory.
He developed his natural talents as an animal sculptor under René Compaire and furthered his knowledge at the Zoo in the Jardin des Plantes, interpreting his own sketches and maquettes into bronze cast by his own hand. He rapidly established a reputation for himself and in 1838 exhibited a bronze group of a ‘Dog and Fox’ at the Salon. In the same year Mêne established his own foundry, exhibiting one or more models almost every year at the Salon until his death in Paris in 1871, and beyond with entries accepted on his behalf until 1879.
At some stage after his marriage (aged 22) Mêne moved to the rue du Faubourg-du-Temple and then to 19 rue de l’Entrepôt, where after 1857, an illustrated catalogue of Mêne’s work (together with the exact size of each sculpture) was issued.
Mêne won four medals at the Salon and at major exhibitions, receiving the Cross of the Légion d’Honneur in 1861.
Mêne developed his own style of naturalism to become the most important and in turn, influential realist of his time. In France he was seen by the purists as a watered down follower of Barye who Mêne rarely, if ever, tried to emulate – where Barye concentrated on the violence of nature, Mêne focused on the more delicate side of animal life, giving his animals a character and natural appeal of their own, capturing in bronze a moment of the subject’s life in the wild.
In England Mêne was seen as sculpture’s answer to the artist Landseer. He had an eye to the lucrative English market and both the Coalbrookdale Foundry and the Falkirk Foundry (on the banks of the river Carron in Scotland) cast his models in iron. In fact, Mêne’s two first class medals were won at the London Exhibitions of 1855 and 1861.
Hunting groups by Pierre-Jules Mêne are consistently the best among the genre.