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Desk Bust of Napoléon I, 1840
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Desk Bust of Napoléon I, 1840

Measurements: Height: 23.5cm (9.25in)

£1850

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Patinated bronze head and shoulders bust after the 1802 marble by A.D. Chaudet. Inscribed ‘NAPOLEON’ to the front. Signed to the side ‘F. BARBEDIENNE, FONDEUR’ and impressed with the Achille Collas ‘reduction mecanique’ foundry mark to the reverse.
 
Dating to the Retour des Cendres (the return of the mortal remains of Napoleon I from St. Helena to Paris in 1840), the present bust reflects the widespread admiration for Napoleon I that flourished during the unpopular monarchy of King Louis-Philippe (1830-1848). Moreover the cult of Napoleon I continued to appeal to followers of Romanticism, who, disillusioned with the anti-climax of the post Napoleonic age, longed to revisit the glories of the premier empire. Supporters of the failed Bonapartist cause gradually realised their political ambitions with the advent of the Presidential Period (1848-1852) under Napoleon I’s nephew Charles-Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-1873) and his seizure of power in 1851 which resulted in his coronation as Napoleon III and the Second Empire (1852-1870).
 
The present model derives from a bust by Antoine Denis Chaudet (1783-1810), sculptor of the portraits of Napoleon as First Consul, and later as Emperor. Official approval of the present model was quickly evinced by Chaudet receiving permission to replicate these in marble, plaster, terracotta, bronze and biscuit porcelain. The present bust displays the features of high quality casting characteristic of one of the most prestigious mid-nineteenth century Paris bronze foundries. Starting in partnership in 1838 Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892) profitably utilized a process invented by Achille Collas of accurately downsizing monumental sculptures to more manageable sizes by mechanic reduction.  The first cast using ‘reduction mecanique’ was a model of the Venus de Milo discovered in 1820. Other classical and celebrated subjects followed and as a testament to the assured quality of their output, living artists, such as Rude, Barye, and Mene entrusted their work to the partnership from 1843.
 

 

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