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Work Henry IV of France as a Child

Department of Sculptures: France, 19th century

Henri IV enfant

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

Sculptures
France, 19th century

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie

The plaster model for this statue of the young king Henry IV of France was presented at the Salon of 1822. With this work, the neoclassical sculptor Bosio tried his hand at troubadour art - an intimate, anecdotal approach to history. The charm of the statue lies in its air of both youthfulness and gravity. The piece was extremely popular throughout the 19th century.

Henry IV under the Restoration

The prince, aged about ten, stands proudly, his left hand holding the pommel of his sword (broken and stolen in 1881), the right hanging loosely by his side. He is charmingly youthful and serious.
This statue evokes Bourbon propaganda under the Restoration: the Bourbons used their glorious past, and the affective potential of Henry IV (founder of the dynasty), to enhance their public image. Bosio was a court favorite whatever the regime; he was portraitist to the imperial family under Napoleon I and court sculptor under Louis XVIII, before being granted the title of baron by Charles X.

The Troubadour style

Bosio was a neoclassical master who sculpted in the great tradition of Canova; this statue, an exception in his work, is an early and successful example of the Troubadour style, which influenced painting from the very start of the 19th century, but had a slighly later impact on sculpture. The precision of costume and accessories is characteristic of the Troubadour style, which views history from an anecdotal, intimate perspective, aiming to move the spectator (unlike neoclassical art, which seeks to edify). The portrayal of kings as children provides a touching contrast between the innocence of their state and the gravity of their destiny. Bosio was probably inspired by a 16th-century portrait of Henry IV at the age of four (Château de Versailles) by François Bunel (1522-1599), court painter to the kings of Navarre.
Although the artist respected the antique tradition here by giving the sculpture a calm, impassive, and impersonal appearance, he also gave it the undeniable freshness which made the work so successful.

A phenomenal success

Bosio was given a commission for two marble statues: one for the king's residence (Château de Versailles), the other for the Château de Pau (birthplace of Henry IV). The silver statue in the Louvre was installed (unfinished) in the study of Louis XVIII on 25 August 1824, for the king's name day. Bosio obtained the privilege of making twelve bronze casts. The statuette was copied in a variety of materials throughout the 19th century (there is a brightly colored version in glazed terracotta made by Alfred Brault in the Château de Pau). Barbedienne produced many smaller replicas, thereby making the work available to a wider public.

Bibliography

Hubert G., Les Sculpteurs italiens en France sous le Révolution, l'Empire et la Restauration 1790-1830, Paris, 1964, pp.105-108.
Pingeot A., Le Normand-Romain A. et Lemaistre I., Sculpture française XIXe siècle (Ecole du Louvre, Notices d'Histoire de l'art n 6), Paris, 1982, n 8.
Schiff G., "The sculpture of the Style Troubadour", Arts Magazine, 1984.
Perot J., Musée national du château de Pau, Quinze années d'acquisitions 1970-1984, cat. expo., Paris, 1985, p.108.
Un âge d'or des arts décoratifs 1814-1848, cat. expo. Grand Palais, Paris, 1991, p.98-99.

Technical description

  • François-Joseph BOSIO (Monaco, 1768 - Paris, 1845)

    Henri IV enfant

    1824

  • Argent fondu et martelé

    H. : 1,25 m. ; L. : 0,42 m. ; Pr. : 0,40 m.

  • Commande de Louis XVIIIAu Louvre depuis 1829

    C.C. 37

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Chaudet
    Room 31
    Vitrine 3

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Additional information about the work

On the right of the plinth: BOSIO PREMIER SCULPTEUR DU ROI / SOYER CISELEUR / FONDU EN 1824 PAR ODIOT ORFEVRE (Bosio First Sculptor to the King / Soyer chiseler / Cast in 1824 by Odiot silversmith)