Buste D'enfant (Bust Of A Child)
Height: 11 5/8" (32 cm)
Conceived in 1877 and carved circa 1908
Dalou began his artistic career as a student of Carpeaux and Duret at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he met his friend and colleague Auguste Rodin. His debut at the Salon was in 1861 when he exhibited Dame Romaine jouant aux Osselets. At the Salon in 1870 he received critical acclaim and a third-class medal for Brodeuse (Woman embroidering).
Dalou was a left-wing Republican, a political conviction that led him to flee Paris for London in 1871. Although Napoleon had been overthrown one year earlier during the Franco-Prussian war, by 1871 foreign forces had seized control of Paris. While the Prussians left the country quickly following the Treaty of Frankfurt, the next decade saw a political power struggle between Monarchists and those in favour of the Republic. This struggle was presided over by a Republican yet highly conservative government, unsympathetic to Dalou’s ideals.
In London, Dalou was appointed as a tutor at the Lambeth art school, where he would lay the foundations for what would become the English New School of sculpture movement. Students of the school included William Goscombe-John, George Frampton and Harry Bates.
Dalou met numerous patrons in England that guaranteed his success and status as one of the leading sculptors of the 19th Century. Among his most prized commissions, one should mention the group known as Charité (Charity). The piece was commissioned by the City of London in 1877 and installed at the top of a fountain in front of the Royal Stock Exchange.
The present sculpture, Buste d’Enfant (Bust of a Child) dates to the same year and is related to the sculptor’s commission of a marble monument celebrating Queen Victoria’s children for a Royal, private chapel at Windsor Castle. This model served as a preliminary sketch for one of the figures in the monument. From the position of the head, slightly tilted to the right, it is clear that the bust was produced as a study for the child to the right of the angel’s leg in the final composition. Both the terracotta maquette for the monument and the original study for this Buste d’Enfant are currently part of the Petit Palais collection in Paris.
The artist did not sculpt actual portraits of Queen Victoria’s children, but worked using the numerous studies of young children he produced in his London studio, where babies and mothers would often pose for him. In this light, the intensity of the figure’s eyes, the plumpness of his cheeks, the subtle curve of his lips and the ruffled hair framing his face are based on the artist’s reinterpretation of such models, testifying to Dalou’s creative process and technical prowess.
The only known version of this model in marble is currently housed in the Petit Palais collection and was acquired directly from the artist’s daughter, Georgette, in 1905. The present sculpture was likely carved by Dalou’s studio assistant, Auguste Becker. Becker had signed a contract with the heirs of the master in 1908, being entrusted with the care of the atelier and of the carving of 29 important models by the artist. As the works were carved on demand, these models were produced in very low edition numbers or, at times, not at all. In this light, the present Bust stands as a rare testimony to Dalou’s continued legacy in the early years of the 20th Century.