Measurements: circa 1875
Bronze figure mounted on a stepped bronze base. Signed Fagel to the naturalistic base and bearing the foundry mark of Susse Frere, Paris. Height of figure: 16cm (6.25in).
The profile of Le Véel’s standard bearer of the 32e demi-brigade bears a striking resemblance to that of its creator. The figure further encapsulates the kind of the republican fervour that informed both the politically motivated citizen-soldiers French revolutionary wars and indeed Le Véel himself. The 32e demi-brigade was formed in 1796 under the Law of Amalgam that sought to invigorate the professionals of the old royalist army with the revolutionary zeal of the volunteer youth battlaions. Nicknamed ‘La Brave’, the 32nd was one of the best units of the Armée d’ Italie. It afterwards served in Egypt with the Armée d’Orient.
Armand Jules Le Véel (1821–1905) sculptor and revolutionary, first rebelled against his bourgeois shopkeeper parents to study art in Paris. In the 1848 Revolution he manned the barricade in the Rue de Rivoli and was among the first to storm the Tuilieres Palace. After arriving in Paris aged 19 in 1840 he supported himself by producing plaster figures for the Susse Freres bronze foundry. He soon met Auguste Poitevin who introduced him to his master, the sculptor Francois Rude whose workshop he later entered. Specialising in French historical subjects, he started exhibiting at Salon in 1850 but never fully enjoyed the honours conferred on his contemporaries owing to his anti-establishment views. Nevertheless he enjoyed a long career as a sculptor, and is best known for his equestrian group of Napoleon I, commissioned by Napoleon III and unveiled August 1858 in Le Véel’s home town of Cherbourg following the inauguration of the Paris-Cherbourg line. In addition to sculpting, he was curator of the Thomas Henry museum that subsequently benefitted from the bequest of Le Véel’s collection of art and antique weapons, furniture and ceramics.