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Work Fame

Department of Sculptures: France, Renaissance

Fame

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Sculptures
France, Renaissance

Author(s):
Montalebetti Valérie

This figure, depicting Fame blowing a trumpet, was commissioned for the funerary monument of Jean-Louis de la Vallette, duke of Épernon and governor of Gascony, and Marguerite de Foix-Candale in the church of Saint-Blaise de Cadillac in the Gironde. It was installed on top of the canopied funeral monument, which was inspired by the great royal tombs at Saint-Denis and the monument to Anne de Montmorency. The figure's wings were remade in bronze by the sculptor Chinard in 1805.

A spirit crowning a mausoleum

In 1597, the duke of Épernon (1554-1642),who was also governor of Gascony, began transforming his chateau at Cadillac in the Gironde into a sumptuous residence. He commissioned Pierre Biard to sculpt a funerary monument in the church of Saint-Blaise de Cadillac. The mausoleum's layout, known from a drawing by the Dutch traveler Van der Hem (Bibliothèque nationale de France), was along the same lines as the royal tombs at Saint-Denis (Louis XII, Francis I, and Henry II). On top - flanked by the praying figures of the deceased, the duke and his wife Marguerite de Foix-Candale - stood the bronze statue of Fame blowing the trumpet of good repute and holding the trumpet of ill repute. The same iconography is to be found on several great tombs in London's Westminster Abbey. As was the custom in Renaissance France, the tomb was a rich polychromy of materials: white marble statues, red marble columns, capitals, and the statue of Fame in bronze. It was demolished in 1792. Several marble fragments are today in the Musée d'Aquitaine, Bordeaux. Fame, considered an artistic masterpiece, was spared and installed in the library at Cadillac in 1794. It was transferred to Bordeaux in 1804 and restored around 1805 by Joseph Chinard, a prominent sculptor under the Empire, who remade the broken wings - initially in wood - in bronze. He modified the position of the left wing, pointing it upwards, whereas it originally pointed horizontally to the rear. The original trumpets and plinth are missing. The statue entered the Louvre in 1834, with its provenance erroneously recorded as "Château Trompette."

An exemplary cast

The slightly larger than life-size figure is in dark brown patinated bronze. The surface is smooth, with no trace of repair. The cast was made using the lost-wax process in one pouring, a technical feat for a statue of this size, whose limbs were cast separately.

French mannerism

The sinuous pose and precarious balance on one leg are reminiscent of the statue of Mercury attributed in the 19th century to Giovanni da Bologna, a sculptor of Flemish origin active in Florence in the second half of the 16th century who greatly influenced European sculptors. Pierre Biard, who traveled to Rome between 1577 and 1580, may have seen a cast of Mercury then in the city. He introduced intense power and dynamism into the female nude. One discovers the fluidity of the figure's forms from different angles around the statue. Biard had distanced himself from the Italian model with a certain naturalism. He gives his Fame ample curves and cheeks deformed by the effort of blowing, a trueness to life characteristic of the form mannerism took in France, known as the second school of Fontainebleau.

Bibliography

Beyer Victor et Bresc-Bautier Geneviève, La Sculpture française
du XVIIe siècle au musée du Louvre, Bergame, Grafica Gutemberg, 1977, Paris, 1977, n. p.
Perrin Joël, "La chapelle et le tombeau des ducs d'Épernon à Cadillac", Société archéologique de Bordeaux, t. LXXVII, Bordeaux, 1986,
pp. 40-44.

Technical description

  • Pierre BIARD (I) (Paris, 1559 - Paris, 1609)

    Fame

  • Bronze

    H. 1.77 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1834

    L.P. 361

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Sarazin
    Room 18 b

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