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Q: Figure Depicted in Bronze Bust ( No Answer,   1 Comment )
Subject: Figure Depicted in Bronze Bust
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Visual Arts
Asked by: parigi1753-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 14 Apr 2006 08:14 PDT
Expires: 17 Apr 2006 20:50 PDT
Question ID: 718863
I have purchased a bronze bust on eBay.  I don't recognize the person
depicted in the bust.  The only clues I have are that he's French, and
based on his costume and wig, lived around the year 1700.  Here is the
seller's page with photos:

I would be greatly indebted if someone could help me identify this figure.
Many thanks!

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 14 Apr 2006 11:09 PDT
This looks to me like a bust of Molière.

Compare it to this similar bust, from the same foundry:

What do you think?

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 14 Apr 2006 13:35 PDT
Dear parigi1753-ga;

Ferdinand Barbedienne was born January 10, 1810 in
St-Martin-de-Fresnay, in Calvados. At the age of 13 he went to Paris
as an apprentice with a saddler. By 1833 he operated his own business
on the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, where he eventually met and
befriended Achille Collas, an artists and aspiring inventor who had
invented a mechanical device that reproduced the impression of painted
canvases and also an apparatus intended to mechanically reduce the
size of sculpted statues. This is an important issue, and I will get
back to that in a moment.

In 1838, the two men founded a partnership business called ?Collas &
Barbedienne? and started to manufacture bronzes. They specialized in
antique reproductions and developed new processes for patinations and
colored bronzes. Here they would reproduce many sculptures by
Barbedienne himself, as well as many others by renowned artists.
Collas died in 1859, and by then Barbedienne employed some 300
workers, and produced as many as 1,200 subjects originally cast by
notable artists such as Michelangelo, Luca Della Robbia and
Antoine-Louis Barye and continued using the reduction concept
developed by Collas.

Barbedienne died on March 21, 1892 and his nephew, Gustave Le Blanc,
took over the foundry. The business was then renamed ?Le
Blanc-Barbedienne?, which continued to operate until December 31,

There have been a number of catalogs published by The Barbedienne
Company that list the bronze castings of antique or contemporary works
of others. The list is quite extensive and includes reproductions of
the works by Michelangelo, Barye, Bosio, Dubois, Barrias, d'Angers,
Aizelin, Carrier-Belleuse, Clesinger, Gardet, and many others, not to
mention the large numbers of clocks, lights, decorative furnishings,
mantelpiece artworks.

Now, the reason I tell you this is because your piece is MOST
DEFINITELY a reproduction. However, it should be noted that this is
not a bad thing in all instances in terms of value. In the case of
Barbedienne, for example, virtually all his works ?were? reproductions
but they were (and still are) relatively valuable in their own right.
You will note the signature ?F.BARBEDIENNE.foundeur?. This is common
of pieces from Barbedienne?s foundry. The stamp, which reads:
?REDUCTION MECANIQUE A COLLAS?, tell us that the piece is a
reduced-size reproduction of a much larger work and that the technique
invented by Collas was used in the creation of this piece. This is
important because it indicates that the piece (if genuine) was
produced some time after 1838 and probably before 1892 when Gustave Le
Blanc took over. Without provenance or some type of authoritative
documentation accompanying the sculpture attesting to its
authenticity, there is, of course, always the chance that the piece
you have is a much more recent ?reproduction of a reproduction?, in
which case it may not be valuable at all. I, for one, would consider
the absence of such documentation a ?red flag?, but this noticeable
absence doesn?t necessarily indicate one way or the other to any
degree of certainty (fine works of art are found all the time without
accompanying documentation).

The mystery of whom the sculpture depicts is still a mystery but
suffice it to say that it wasn?t necessarily (and probably was not) a
bronze BEFORE Barbedienne reproduced it. In fact, it may very well
have been a full size marble statue or even a canvas painting before
Barbedienne and Collas applied their reproduction technique that made
the piece you see before you today. There is also a slight possibility
that this could be one of Barbedienne?s original pieces in which case
there may be no larger original work still in existence (having been
reduced, mass produced, and then the original may have been
destroyed). Because it is most likely a reproduction of someone else?s
earlier work, I suspect you will find, if you examine the piece
thoroughly, a third signature (that being the signature or mark of the
original artist) somewhere on the bust. Typically these artists?
signatures or marks are found in fairly obscure places such as beneath
the hairline, robe line, at the feet or somewhere near the base in the
back. Here is an example of a third signature on a Barbedienne
reproduction of a work by Jean Baptiste (known as August) Clesinger:


I say all this to get to this end; if you locate a third signature I
may be able to tell you not only who the sculpture represents, but
also who originally created it, when it was created, and where. But
because it is a ?Barbedienne?, until then, the issue may be like
finding a needle in a haystack.

Let me know if you find another signature and I will take up your
search again. Until then perhaps someone will simply run across the
answer, but my guess is that we'll find out together.

Best regards;

Clarification of Question by parigi1753-ga on 15 Apr 2006 21:42 PDT
Thank you to all who pointed out that Barbedienne was the name of the
foundry that produced (probably in the 19th century) the replica of
the original bust that I have purchased.  Who was the sitter for the
original bust, produced around 1700?  One kind suggestion was Moliere,
and indeed that was my first guess, because I know Barbedienne has
produced many replicas in various sizes of his bust.  My guy is not
Moliere, however.  Moliere has the moustache more common in the
earlier part of the 17th century, whereas my guy is clean shaven and
has a wig more characteristice of the period from about 1680 to 1730. 
Many thanks!

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 16 Apr 2006 15:30 PDT
"Who was the sitter for the original bust, produced around 1700?"

Again, as I mentioned in my earlier post, if you find a third
signature of the original artist we may very well be able to answer
that for you. Until then it may remain a mystery.

There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Figure Depicted in Bronze Bust
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Apr 2006 19:03 PDT
Here is another example of Barbendienne work with some explanation:

And this site tells some more:

I agree with the possibility that the bust may be a later reproduction
by the foundry of the original "reduction mecanique", especially since
the seller volunteers a dating "19th-20th c."
If the person portrayed were Molière or an equally notable Frenchman,
I would expect that the French seller would have identified him.  I
could not (checked Molière, Descarte, Pascal, Diderot, Leibniz,
Newton, August the Strong of Saxony, Voltaire).
The flat tip of his nose must be characteristic.

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