French Sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalouís Boulonnaise allaitant son enfant, Acquired in 1876 by the 3rd Marquess of Sligo, Resurfaces on to the market after 136 years in a Prominent Private Collection in Ireland. Photo: Sotheby's
LONDON - Sothebyís announced today that it will offer a supremely rare life-size masterpiece in terracotta by the great 19th-century French artist Aimé-Jules Dalou in a London sale of 19th & 20th Century Sculpture on 21 May 2014. Boulonnaise allaitant son enfant (A Young Mother from Boulogne feeding her Child) was acquired directly from the artist in 1876 by George John Browne, 3rd Marquess of Sligo, before being exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1877. It was subsequently installed at Westport House, in Westport, Ireland, where it was on view until last year. Estimated at £300,000-500,000 (ą360,000-600,000), the terracotta is one of the last museum-quality life-size works by Dalou in private hands and is being sold by Jeremy Browne, the 11th Marquess of Sligo.
Alexander Kader, Head of Sothebyís European Sculpture & Works of Art Department, commented: Dalouís ĎBoulonnaise allaitantí is one of the artistís defining masterpieces. It is an honour for Sothebyís to bring this inspiring sculpture to the market for the first time since 1876. The sale will provide collectors and institutions with a matchless opportunity to acquire one of Dalouís seminal works.Ē
Jeremy Browne, the 11th Marquess of Sligo, said: ďDalouís masterpiece has been enjoyed by generations of visitors to Westport House. We hope that the proceeds raised through its sale will secure the future of one of Irelandís best-loved attractions for generations to come.Ē
Boulonnaise allaitant, dazzling in the humanity of its conception and the virtuosity of its execution, is one of only four groups of a mother and her child in life-size dimensions produced by the artist during his entire career. All four were exhibited at the Royal Academy and each met with an enthusiastic reception from the public and critics.
Dalou (1838-1902) was one of the greatest French sculptors of the 19th century, with some of his most important works being housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Musée díOrsay in Paris. He was recently the focus of a major 2013 retrospective exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris, Jules Dalou, le sculpteur de la République, which has given Dalou an international profile. The Boulonnaise allaitant is the first major work by the artist to come onto the market since the Petit Palais retrospective. Its location was unknown to the organisers of the exhibition and so its forthcoming sale represents an important rediscovery for Dalou scholarship.
In 1871, Dalou and his family fled France for England, a consequence of the Franco Prussian War and Dalouís alignment with the Commune, which collapsed in May of that year. He quickly came to understand the taste of British collectors and maternal themes became a mainstay of his production. With Boulonnaise allaitant, Dalou synthesised two subjects which had preoccupied him in the preceding years, motherhood and women from Boulogne. The composite figure marked the culmination of Dalouís treatment of both themes that had served his career so well. Dalou thereafter altered his focus and concentrated on public monuments.
The nursing Boulonnaise has been known until now only as a variant statuette in plaster, with editions in porcelain and bronze. This life-size version in terracotta, signed by the artist and dated 1876, was purchased by George, 3rd Marquess of Sligo, from Dalouís London studio, with the proviso that the artist be allowed to exhibit it publicly at the Royal Academy before delivery.
The skill with which Dalou has sculpted the drapery folds and integrated subtle details into the whole composition is comparable with the work of Gianlorenzo Bernini, the 17th century Italian sculptor. In Boulonnaise allaitant, the smaller pleats at the top of the motherís heavy cloak, the more monumental and sweeping folds below them, the contrasting textures of her tight-fitting bonnet and its quilted extension, the clasp with chain that secures her cloak, the wisp of a cord that secures the bonnet at the base of the neck, all suggest that Dalou is in full command.
Dalou understood how to enhance the interactive forces of a sculptural work of art, and the medium of terracotta was especially amenable to his treatment of surfaces and details. The loving interaction between the mother and child is also expertly calibrated in its degree of focus, with an intense artistry that unifies form and content.
Dalouís participation in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1877 marked an apogee in the artistís career. His submission was granted the honour of the most prestigious location, the rotunda, alongside the bronze version of Frederick Leightonís Athlete wrestling a Python. Dalou had encouraged Leightonís talents as a sculptor and, in turn, Leighton Ė who became president of the Royal Academy in 1875 Ė rewarded Dalouís kindness with this generous, but most deserved gesture.
George, 3rd Marquess of Sligo
George Browne was the eldest son of Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, famous Ďregency buckí and friend of Lord Byron, Thomas de Quincy and the Prince Regent. After his fatherís death in 1845 he faced the appalling realities of the Irish Famine. Disillusioned with Britainís feeble humanitarian response to the crisis, he personally shipped in food for his tenants and campaigned for pioneering economic and social reforms. It is rather apt that this most enlightened of Dalouís patrons married a Frenchwoman named Isobel Perronet in 1878, a year after the Boulonnaise allaitant had been installed at Westport House.
FURTHER SALE HIGHLIGHT
Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordierís Jeune fille des environs de Rome Sothebyís sale presents two of the most important 19th-century sculptures on the market in recent years. Alongside the Dalou, the auction features an important and beautifully carved marble bust by Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier that comes directly from the artistís family. Jeune fille des environs de Rome (Young Girl from the environs of Rome) represents one of Cordierís rare Roman subjects. Marbles by Cordier are becoming increasingly desirable to collectors and museums. Characteristic of the artistís finest works, the marble has been enlivened with the added dimension of polychromy and appears to have been the only one of Cordierís Roman sculptures to have been polychromed. Like Dalou, Cordier (1827-1905) was one of the greatest French 19th-century sculptors. This sculpture was displayed at the Musée díOrsay, Paris in 2004 in an exhibition on Cordier. The combination of excellence in the quality of carving, together with the delicate hints of colour, serves to create one of his most subtle and charming busts (estimate £70,000-120,000 / ą84,000-120,000).