A Napoléon III Mantle Clock With A Bronze Figure of ‘Phryné’
A Napoléon III Marble Mantle Clock With A Patinated Bronze Figure of 'Phryné' by James Pradier. France, Circa 1860. Surmounted by a finely cast patinated...
DimensionsHeight: 65 cm (26 in)
A Napoléon III Marble Mantle Clock With A Patinated Bronze Figure of ‘Phryné’ by James Pradier. France, Circa 1860.
Surmounted by a finely cast patinated bronze figure of the Grecian courtesan, ‘Phryne’, cast from the model by Jean Jacques (called James) Pradier (1790-1852). Atop a rouge griotte marble entablature with fluted sides and stepped base fronted by a clock dial with Roman numeral chapters, the twin-barrel movement with strike on bell.
French, circa 1870.
Phryné was companion of the Greek sculptor Praxiteles, and had been accused of ungodliness. Facing certain conviction, at a loss for what to do, her lawyer asked her to remove her clothes to show her innocence, and this immediately convinced the judges of her purity and she was acquitted. It is likely that Pradier’s inspiration was the beautiful actress Juliette Drouet (1806-830, by whom he had had a daughter some years before.
Pradier’s statue of Phryné was originally made from Parian marble, an entirely appropriate medium in view of the very Grecian subject of the work. The marble of Phryné stood to a height of almost two meters with her jewels and drapery highlighted in polychrome and gold, she made a dazzling impression at the Salon of 1845. In 1851, Pradier exhibited her at the Great Exhibition in London and his was the only work by a French sculptor to be awarded a council medal.
Pradier licensed production of bronze reductions of his statues to the foundeur Susse Frères. Who in turn agreed to cast an edition to a high standard. Several contracts exist between Pradier and Susse dated between 1841 and the sculptor’s death in 1852, and thereafter giving Susse full ownership to continue editing his work. Susse Frères sales catalogue of 1860 lists the bronze statuette of ‘Phryné’ at 40 cm. high, like the present example, retailing at 150 Ffr.
James Pradier (1792-1852) was a sculptor, born in Geneva on 23 May, 1792 he died at Rueil, France, on June 4, 1852. He was descended from an old Huguenot family and studied art under Charles Wielandy and David Detalla.
He won a scholarship which took him to Paris, where he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1811 and studied painting in the classical manner under Lemot. He won the Prix de Rome in 1812 for painting and the Grand Prix the following year.
He worked in Rome from 1814 to 1819 and began exhibiting at the Salon on his return, winning a first class medal with his debut. He concentrated on sculpture from 1820 onwards and specialised in busts of his contemporaries and neoclassical statuettes in the style of Clodion, but more erotic.
He won the Legion d’Honneur in 1824 and was advanced to the grade of Officer only seven years later. He was a member of the Institut and succeeded his old master Lemot as professor of sculpture at the Ecole. He won many important public commissions and is best known for the decorative sculpture on the Arc de Triomphe, the Madeleine and Napoleon’s tomb in Les Invalides.
Pradier was part of the neo-classicists artists in France who included Ingres and Canova. In 1846, Gustave Flaubert wrote on his style :
‘This is a great artist, a true Greek, the most antique of all the moderns.’
Many of his works in marble were also cast in bronze. These include the Niobe group (1822), The Three Graces (1821), Psyche (1824), Atalanta (1850), and Sappho (1852).
Rosenthal, Leon,(1989) Romanticism, Parkstone Press Intenational, USA, 2008, p.184.
C. Lapaire, James Pradier (1790-1852) et la sculpture française de la génération romantique, Catalogue Raisonné, Lausanne, 2010, cat. 232, pp. 331-333.