Hébé et Jupiter (Hebe and Jupiter)
Inscribed 'SUSSE FRES F'
Bronze with a rich dark brown patination and lighter brown highlights
Height: 19" (48 cm)
Conceived in 1847 and cast circa 1850
James Pradier (born Jean-Jacques) was born in Geneva in 1790 from a French family. His name is associated with the development of Neoclassical sculpture in early nineteenth-century Europe, and his works feature in major museum collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), as well as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay (Paris).
Both James and his brother Charles-Simon were introduced to watchmaking and engraving at a young age, and joined the Ecole du Dessin in Geneva in 1804. His brother won a scholarship to travel to Paris in 1805, thanks to two influential Genevan intellectuals, Marc-Auguste Pictet and Frédéric Guillame Maurice. James joined Charles-Simon in 1808, finding work in the sculptor François Frédéric Lemont’s atelier in 1809.
Despite his young age, Pradier’s talent quickly earned him the esteem of leading figures in the Parisian art world. In 1813, the artist took part to the Prix du Rome, winning a scholarship to study at the prestigious Villa Medici with a bas-relief on the set theme Philoctète dans l’île de Lemnos (Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos). While in Rome, Pradier frequented the studios of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen – the greatest names in Neoclassical sculpture – and likely met Dominique Ingres. These encounters influenced greatly the artist and his later sculptural language.
Pradier established his name by winning a gold medal for his sculpture Une Nymphe (A Nymph) at the 1819 Salon, which marked the beginning of his career as one of France’s leading artists. From that year until his death in 1852, the sculptor was commissioned to produce works from important private individuals including King Louis Philippe, public works for French municipalities including Paris, Arles and Versailles and a large number of works for the State. His art defined the French taste and artistic canons in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The present piece, Hebe et Jupiter, also known as Hebe et l’Aigle – Hebe and the Eagle, was conceived by the artist in 1847. It represents Hebe, the goddess of youth, daughter of Jupiter and Era and wife of the Greek hero Heracles, seated with her father who frequently took the form of an eagle. Pradier’s original terracotta concept for the model, now at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes, shows the figure almost fully naked, with only a cloth covering her left leg.
The iconography of the work testifies to her role as cup-bearer of the gods, as she is holding a small amphora and a drinking vessel, with a larger amphora lying at her feet. Hebe was a popular subject among artists during the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century; Antonio Canova produced at least four versions of this subject in marble – the most famous of which is currently housed in the Hermitage collection (St. Petersburg).
Antonio Canova, Hebe, Hermitage Museum (St Petersburg)
The present work was cast by the Susse Fréres foundry. The foundry offered the work in their 1860s and 1875 catalogues. There are less than ten known versions of this work in bronze. The elegant line running under the ‘SUSSE FRES’ inscription, looping around the ‘F’, suggests that this example was one of the rare 1850s’ casts of the work.