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Work Amphitrite

Department of Sculptures: France, 17th and 18th centuries

Amphitrite

© 1994 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Sculptures
France, 17th and 18th centuries

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie


A statue in a pastoral setting

Louis XIV found Marly a pastoral setting to relax in away from the pomp of Versailles. The aging sovereign enjoyed the continual changes to the park's decoration. In 1704 Jacques Prou was commissioned to sculpt Amphitrite for the middle of the Bassin des Carpes. It was executed about 1705-6, shortly before he died. After 1707 it was moved to another location in the park, the Fontaine d'Amphitrite. After the fountain was demolished in 1706, it was put in the château's storerooms. There is no record of it from its move to the waterfall at the Château de Bellevue in 1754 until it was bought by the Louvre at auction on 6 December 1974.

Grace and sensuality

Amphitrite was the wife of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon (the Roman Neptune). She is portrayed as a Nereid, a sea-nymph, as in classical representations of marine triumphs such as Raphael's Triumph of Galatea (Galleria Farnese, Rome). Semi-reclined on drapery, she is leaning against a dolphin that she is restraining with a cord. Prou gave her a generous, supple, curvaceous body. The drapery accompanies her curves, emphasizing the small of the back, climbs delicately over her shoulder to accentuate her breasts, and wraps itself around her left leg. Long strands of hair have come loose from her coiffure, one descending her right shoulder to her breast, another wedding the curve of the left shoulder. Her left foot is resting on an aquatic plant. The extreme delicacy of the highly idealized facial features, apparently a characteristic of the artist's work, can also be seen in his admission piece for the Académie, Sculpture Presenting the King's Medallion to the King (1662, Musée du Louvre). There is a slight smile on her impishly graceful face. The sculpture's elegance owes much to the care the artist lavished on its details: the nymph's laurel-crowned hair, the braid border of the drapery, the plaiting of the dolphin's cord, and the aquatic vegetation.

The Rocaille style

The work's cheerful grace is typical of the spirit of Marly, which in the early 18th century forsook the majestic art of Versailles for a more decorative and gracious style known as Rocaille.

Bibliography

Rosasco Betsy-Jean, The Sculptures of the Château of Marly during the Reign of Louis XIV, New York University, 1980, pp.413-414.
Cinq années d'enrichissement du patrimoine national 1975-1980, catalogue de l'exposition, Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 1980-1981, Paris, 1980, pp. 75-76.
Souchal François, French Sculptors of the 17th and the 18th Centuries. The Reign of Louis XIV, Oxford, tome III, 1987, p.185.

Technical description

  • Jacques PROU (Paris, 1655 - Paris, 1706)

    Amphitrite

  • Marble

    H. 0.97 m; W. 1.73 m; D. 0.65 m

  • Acquired in 1975

    R.F. 3027

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Lower ground floor
    Cour Marly
    Courtyard

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