Carrier-Belleuse & Rodin (French, 1824-1887 and 1840-1917)

Part modelled by Auguste Rodin under the mentorship of Carrier-Belleuse.

Auguste Rodin struggled to find work in the early part of his career and was forced was to seek work in the studio of the commercially successful Carrier Belleuse in 1864. Rodin remained there until 1879 when he joined the Sèvres Porcelain factory, where Carrier was head of design.

Carrier Belleuse studied with David D’Anger before working with Carpeaux and Charles Garnier, designer of the Paris Opera House. In 1863 he sold his first work to Napoleon III, and from there on followed private and public commissions, such as the decoration of the Louvre and the Paris Opera House. It was his charming romantic style and expert eye for decoration that made him popular; by the 1870s he had a large group of artisans and sculptors working under his supervision tasking each one with projects he knew they would excel.

The Abduction of Hippodamie was first documented in 1871 when a terracotta version was included in a selection of models offered in Brussels in July of that year. June Hargrove, author of the monograph Carrier Belleuse, has demonstrated that the centaur’s body, “which ripples with a bold musculature,” is characteristic of Rodin’s models for the Vase of the Titans, another work which is only signed Carrier Belleuse, but is accepted as being sculpted by Rodin. The screaming face of the Centaur is also pure Rodin and can be seen in his The Call to Arms of 1878. It is therefore accepted that this work, while bearing the signature of Carrier Belleuse, was created by his assistant Rodin.

In Greek mythology, the Lapiths, a peace-loving people of Thessaly, were celebrating the wedding of their King Pirithous to Hippodamia. The Centaurs were invited but quickly began to misbehave. One of them, Eurytus, full of liquor, tried to carry off the bride and soon a brawl ensued. Eventually the Centaurs were driven off. To the ancients and in the Renaissance the theme symbolized the victory of civilization over barbarism.

Rodin, The Call to Arms, Musée Rodin

Rodin, The Vase of the Titans, Victoria & Albert Museum