Henry de Triqueti (1803-1874)

Henry de Triqueti 1803-1874. Le sculpteur des princes. Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts and Montargis, Musée Girodet, from October 3, 2007 through January 6, 2008

1. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
>Full-size maquette of the
Recumbent Duke of Orléans, and
the Spirit of France Lamenting
the Death of the Duke of Orléans
, 1842
Plaster - 89 x 86,5 x 217 cm (Recumbent Figure),
52 x 167,5 x 12 cm (Spirit)
Montargis, Musée Girodet
Photo : D. Rykner

About twenty years ago, when visiting the Musée Girodet, we could see the building outside housing the pieces from Henri [1] de Triqueti’s workshop. The collection was at the time in precarious shape. A rehabilitation of XIXth C. sculpture was just beginning to take hold after decades of neglect during which large numbers of objects disappeared from establishments that had been theoretically set up to preserve them. I remember particularly my first look at the plaster maquette (ill. 1) of the recumbent figure for the tomb of the Duke of Orléans, split in half, lying in a parking garage overlooking the street. Alas, the catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibitions in Montargis and Orleans show that the losses were real and lists two important pieces, the original plaster casts for Christ Dead in the Arms of the Virgin and Dante and Virgil, once belonging to the museum, which have today disappeared.

2. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
David Dictating the Psalms under Divine Inspiration,
preliminary drawing for the décor of the Prince Albert Chapel
at Windsor Castle
Black chalk, red chalk, pen, brown ink, brown ink wash
India ink wash, watercolour, heightened with white chalk -
22, 6 x 29, 5 cm
Paris, Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Photo : ENSBA

This dual retrospective meant to reveal a major artist was thus not as easy to prepare as it seems. A full inventory, restoration and study of the plaster casts at the Musée Girodet was first undertaken by Sylvain Bellenger [2], and continues today by Richard Dagorne. Besides Montargis, Orleans and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris had also benefited from the generosity of the sculptor’s heirs. Orleans received pieces in terra-cotta, marble and bronze, about sixty in all, while a few thousand drawings (ill. 2) went to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where they are still waiting to be inventoried. It is therefore with the holdings from these three sources, along with some loans from other collections, including those of Triqueti’s heirs, that the two museums in the Loiret region have organized this exhibition.

3. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Vase of the Israelites during their
Captivity in Babylon
, 1853
Marble - 130 x 100 x 80 cm
Ferrières-en-Brie, Château
Photo : D. Rykner

4. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
The Ten Commandments, doors for the Church of the Madeleine
Paris, Church of the Madeleine
Photo : D. R.

We would recommend beginning at the Musée d’Orléans which retraces the artist’s career. The presentation is traditional, but nonetheless remarkable, in a beautiful red which highlight the objects beautifully.
Before reaching the exhibition itself, one should stop in the entrance hall to admire the Vase of the Israelites during their Captivity in Babylon (ill. 3) which, due to its size and weight, could not be integrated into the main part of the show. This imposing marble piece was commissioned by James de Rothschild for the château de Ferrières. Originally located in a corner of the room, part of its decoration was hidden to visitors and it could not be photographed correctly. Just like the doors of the Madeleine (ill. 4) in the first gallery, the vase demonstrates the artist’s ability to execute monumental works as well as small formats.
Few people can claim to have never passed through the doors of the Church of the Madeleine. But who really stops to look at them ? Does anyone even know the name of the artist who created these bronze panels ? And yet they were Triqueti’s first masterpiece, strongly influenced by the doors of the Baptistery in Florence but also those of Saint Peter’s in Rome. This prestigious influence however is never overwhelming. The sculptor, with the help of the founders Richard, Eck and Durand, creates a work clearly belonging in his time and place. It is important to see it on site since no preliminary plaster cast remains and only small models for heads along with other drawings are shown, giving only a flimsy idea.

5. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Beatrice, 1839
Bronze - 38,5 x 12,2 x 9 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Pierre Philibert - Louvre

6. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Divine Mercy Welcoming Repentance
Ivory - 34 x 13 x 18 cm
France, private collection
Photo : Faujour-Musée Girodet

7. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Project for the Busts of Florence
and Alice Cambell
, 1856
Terra-cotta - 29 x 22 x 7 cm
Montargis, Musée Girodet
Photo : D. Rykner

From a wealthy background, Triqueti never really had to work for a living. Like Préault, his bronze works were rarely edited. Thus, the objects are often unique works. Three pieces recently acquired by the Musée du Louvre, Laura, Beatrice (ill. 5) and Victoria Colonna are particularly fine examples. These feminine figures were part of a pedestal meant to hold a large bronze vase, its whereabouts unknown today, commissioned by the Duke of Orléans. Although he is the creator of non-religious statuettes, in ivory (ill. 6) or bronze, of marble portraits inside large medallions and prepared with terra-cotta models (ill. 7), and also executed many decorative objects such as ewers, shields and mirrors (much like those of Félicie de Fauveau), Triqueti is above all a great religious sculptor, a vocation that he pursued even after his conversion to Protestantism.

8. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Cenotaph of the Duke of Orléans, 1842
Paris, Chapel Saint-Ferdinand
Photo : D. Rykner

The recumbent figure for the tomb of the Duke of Orleans (ill. 8) can be studied closely here thanks to a reduced model in plaster and the large full-size maquette (ill. 1), both held in Montargis and exhibited in Orleans, and also with the help of a version of the head in marble, acquired by the Musée du Louvre opportunely some years back. For once, the idea for the piece was not Triqueti ’s but by Ary Scheffer who provided the drawings for this magnificent sculpture. The idea of the crying angel [3] is, on the other hand, entirely due to the sculptor, whereas the one holding Ferdinand’s head in the small maquette and in the final work is a re-utilization of a sculpted marble by Marie d’Orléans [4], Ferdinand’s sister, who had died also a few years earlier. We highly recommend a visit to the chapel where this group is preserved, close to the Porte Maillot in Paris, which also houses a Pietà by Triqueti and stained-glass windows produced by the Manufacture de Sèvres from cartoons by Ingres.

9. General overview of the Prince Albert Chapel
at Windsor Castle
The Royal Collection
© 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The exhibition in Montargis is entirely devoted to the Wolsey chapel (ill. 9), Triqueti’s other monumental production after the doors at the Madeleine Church. He spent most of the last part of his life on this project and managed to finish it before his death. We would like to discuss this undertaking here, absolutely unique in its technical prowess and resulting beauty. Queen Victoria was unconsolable after the death of her husband, Prince Albert. In 1862 she decided to erect a mausoleum to him in the Wolsey chapel at Windsor Castle. The architect, Sir Gilbert Scott, was chosen to carry out the project but, much to his chagrin, soon had to share the honor with Triqueti. The sculptor received the commission in 1864. Right from the start, he considered using tarsia to decorate the walls. This was a technique he had elaborated based on his study of the decorations on the floor of the Duomo in Sienna and which consists in marquetry work using different colored marble on which a design is carved with acid by means of a procedure much like etching. The lines are then filled in with colored cement (ill. 10 and 11). This technique should be reinstated (the catalogue fails to do so) in the search, persistent in the XIXth C., for polychromed mural work able to resist the wear of time better than painting or frescoes. This type of mineral décor, colored and long-lasting provides a result similar to that achieved by the research of Hittorf which produced enamelled lava.

10. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Décor of the Prince Albert Chapel
at Windsor Castle
North wall of choir : Christ in the Garden of Olives
The Royal Collection
© 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

11. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Décor of the Prince Albert Chapel
at Windsor Castle
North wall of choir : The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ
The Royal Collection
© 2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

12. Maquette of the Prince Albert Chapel
at Windsor Castle
showing Henri de Triqueti’s décor
Produced for the Musée Girodet’s exhibition
Photo : Musée Girodet

The walls of the chapel were thus covered with these tarsias, enriched with bas-reliefs. The effect is striking. Although a visit to the chapel itself is essential for anyone wanting to experience its importance, the Musée de Montargis had an excellent idea in providing a maquette on a 1/5 scale. The object itself is fascinating (ill. 11) and is a perfect evocation of the original. This is only one of the many splendid ideas in the show. The plaster models used by his assistants [5] (foremost of which was Susan Durant, a student who was also Triqueti’s mistress) are arranged as if the museum goer was entering the artist’s workshop (ill. 12). They are displayed on a large work table (ill. 13 and 14) in a coherent disorder, surrounding a presentation of one of two tarsias (unfinished) held by the museum. One can also see the full-size maquette of the cenotaph for Prince Albert, of neo-Gothic style, and the sculpture models for the base possibly inspired by the statuettes decorating the tombs for the Dukes of Burgundy (ill. 15).

13. View of the Triqueti exhibition at the Musée Girodet in Montargis
In the foreground, the full-size model for the recumbent Prince Albert
Photo : Musée Girodet

14. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Moses, plaster model for the décor
of the Prince Albert Chapel
Montargis, Musée Girodet
Photo : D. Rykner

15. Henri de Triqueti (1803-1874)
Royalty in mourning, 1871-1872
Maquette for a niche figure in the
Prince Albert cenotaph at
Windsor Castle
Plaster - 44 x 23 x 25 cm
Montargis, Musée Girodet
Photo : Faujour - Musée Girodet

Although both of these exhibitions are models of achievement, we regret that the catalogue, despite a high-quality edition and fine essays on the whole, fails to cover thoroughly several points of interest. Many of the aspects of the artist’s career are treated only briefly, in some cases omitted. Thus, we would have enjoyed seeing at least reproductions of both Christ(s) Crucified at the Invalides (two were executed) and the one for the church in Montargis, the pulpit for the cathedral in Troyes, the Protective Law at the Palais Bourbon, or English commissions such as the Angel Choir at the church in Teffont Evias, the tarsias at University College and University College Hospital in London…They are quoted in passing, but none of them is studied in depth, with the catalogue concentrating essentially on the doors for the Madeleine and the sculptures in the Saint-Ferdinand chapel as well as the Wolsey chapel. A chronology would also have been welcome. Triqueti’s activity as a painter is not examined nor is his important collection of drawings which might have been studied in the search of any possible influence. Much is still needed for a complete understanding of one of the major sculptors of the XIXth C. and we hope that work will continue. These exhibitions are only a first step in a much awaited rehabilitation of the artist.

Didier Rykner

Scientific commissioner : Isabelle Leroy-Jay Lemaistre ; commissioner for the exhibition at the Musée Girodet : Richard Dagorne ; commissioner for the exhibition at the Musée d’Orléans : Véronique Galliot-Rateau.

Collective work, Henry de Triqueti 1803-1874. Le sculpteur des princes, Hazan, 2007, 192 p., 37 €. ISBN 978-2-7541-0242-1

Buy this book

Visitor Information : Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Place Sainte-Croix, 45000 Orléans. Phone : + 33 (0)2 38 79 21 55. Open from Tuesday through Saturday 10:30 through 12:15 and 13:30 through 17:45, Sunday from 14:00 through 18:30. Admission : 4 €.

Montargis, Musée Girodet, 2, rue de la Chaussée, 45200 Montargis. Phone : + 33 (0)2 38 98 07 81. Open from Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 through 12:00 and 13:30 through 17:30 (Friday : through 17:00) Admission : 3 €.

To see both exhibitions the same day (avoiding Mondays and Tuesdays), we recommend starting in Orléans (except on Sundays, when the museum is closed in the morning). There is a bus going from Orléans to Montargis which leaves at 12:30 from the bus terminal and arrives in Montargis at 13:40.

Didier Rykner, jeudi 1er novembre 2007


[1] His first name was spelled Henri until now. The English spelling used in the catalogue seems to have been adopted by the artist late in life. We will maintain the original one, which is the one found on his birth certificate and most commonly used.

[2] We would like to point out the only work recently published before on Triqueti : Jacques Thuillier, Sylvain Bellenger and Léo Ewals, Henri de Triqueti 1804-1874. Le Prince Gisant. Histoire et restauration du Gisant de Ferdinand d’Orléans, Musée Girodet, 1990, which accompanied an exhibition organized by Silvain Bellenger.

[3] This is the Spirit of France Lamenting the Death of the Duke of Orléans. It should be noticed that the placement of the Spirit and the Recumbent are inverted as opposed to the final work.

[4] The Louvre will soon stage an exhibition on this endearing figure of the Orleans family.

[5] Marble works are often, one tends to forget, produced hand in hand by the artist and his assistants who are entrusted with sculpting-or at least trimming down-according to an original model.

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