Monday, March 11, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Barye Elephant, 1880

Elephant du Senegal
Antoine-Louis Barye, 1855
Cast by Barbedienne around 1880
The Victoria and Albert Museum

Antoine-Louis Barye, a prolific sculptor of the Nineteenth Century, was celebrated for his “animilier” sculptures. These highly-detailed, true-to-life figures offered a glimpse at exotic animals, the likes of which most Parisians at the time would never see in person.

Here, we have a bronze figure of an “Elephant du Sénégal” (Senegalise Elephant) which was modeled before 1855. This cast bears the mark of Ferdinand Barbédienne (1820-1892). Barbédienne, in 1838, established a foundry whose hundreds of worker produced thousands of models a year. The works of this foundry supplied bronzes of various sizes for the growing demand from middle-class households for important-looking figures. Upon the death of Barye in 1875, his designs were taken over Barbédienne who sold them exclusively.

A version of this elephant first appeared in the catalogue issued by Barye in 1855, but this model is likely a later casting from Barbédienne's foundry and probably dates to about 1880.


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