Carpeaux, Dalou, Susse : an exhibition organized by Orsay and the Ecole du Louvre

1/7/10 – Exhibition – Paris, Musée d’Orsay – What better training for a future curator than a chance to help prepare an exhibition for the prestigious Musée d’Orsay ? This is exactly what happened to sixteen first year students at the Ecole du Louvre under the supervision of Catherine Chevillot, a curator at the museum and a sculpture specialist. In three months’ time, they organized a case-study exhibition on late 19th century edited bronzes, highlighting Jean-Batiste Carpeaux and Jules Dalou. The Petit Palais in Paris participated in this original initiative since it owns the most extensive Dalou collection, as did the Maison Susse, the last documented 19th century foundry still operating.

1. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux
Genius od Dance n° 1, between 1872
and 1910
“Chef-modèle” in bronze, Susse Frères
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
Photo : Musée d’Orsay/Patrice Schmidt

2. Jules Dalou (1838-1902)
Standing Worker
“Chef-modèle” in bronze
Edited from the 30 june 1892
after an original model
from 1889 to 1902
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
Photo : RMN / Musée d’Orsay

The purpose of the first section is to explain the technique for producing the bronze “chef-modèle”, the pattern enabling the reproduction of hundreds of replicas which would then decorate bourgeois homes. The Musée d’Orsay owns a large number of these objects. These are either reduced models of monumental works (ill. 1), or else models specially designed for editing.
However, Jules Dalou permitted these replicas only very late in life, shortly before he died. Most of this production is therefore posthumous (ill. 2). In the case of Carpeaux, the sculptor worked with Barbedienne, but after he passed away his family turned to Susse to which it gave the exclusivity for eleven subjects.
The second part of the exhibition presents works edited after Dalou and Carpeaux, although the most interesting section is that showing, in a flat display case, the original Dalou plaster casts (Petit Palais), the “chefs-modèles” (Orsay) and the editions (Petit Palais). We know that the last are necessarily slightly smaller than the “chefs-modèles”, the only visible difference between the objects. Thanks to the exhibition, the size of each sculpture was verified thus revealing that the old inventories were not very precise. According to Amélie Simier, a curator at the Petit Palais, this project contributed highly to further knowledge of the subject. While we understand that such an event cannot be accompanied by a catalogue, we do hope that the lessons learned from it will soon be studied in an article.

Tous collectionneurs. Carpeaux et Dalou édité par la Maison Susse. Paris, Musée d’Orsay, from 29 June to 7 November 2010.

Musée d’Orsay internet website.

Didier Rykner, jeudi 1er juillet 2010

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