Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sculpture of the Day: Sappho and Cupid, 1851

Sappho and Cupid
Henri de Triqueti
The Royal

French Sculptor Henri de Triqueti was wildly popular with the French Court and was a favorite of King Louis-Philippe who not only enjoyed the artist’s work, but also his company. Sadly (for Triqueti, at least), Louis-Philippe found himself booted out of power. Without a patron, Triqueti collected his English wife and sought opportunities in Britain.

His work was quickly noticed. Queen Victoria appreciated the artist’s work, and, in 1851 purchased this ivory statue directly from Triqueti as a surprise Christmas gift for Prince Albert. The figure—neatly rendered in ivory—depicts the great poetess Sappho as she attempts to fling herself into the sea upon learning she’s been rejected by Phaon. Tiny little Cupid tries desperately to prevent her suicide.

Victoria, who was equally mad about Prince Albert, thought this would be a sweet gift for her husband. And, it was. However, she made a good artistic choice, too. This sculpture is rare. Triqueti exclusively sculpted historical and biblical scenes. This classically-themed sculpture is a strange departure for him. Victoria would go on to purchase a full-scale marble sculpture of Edward VI from Triqueti. He then offered her a good price on two more ivory figures. She politely declined.

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