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Work Saint James the Less

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

Saint James the Less

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Sculptures
France, 17th and 18th centuries

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie

Admission piece for the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, presented on 24 September 1689. The earliest series of admission pieces consists of religious subjects, especially figures of apostles such as this one.

A bas-relief of a single figure

Saint James the Less was Jesus' cousin and one of the twelve apostles. After Saint Peter left for Rome, he became the head of the Christian Church in Palestine. In 62 the Sanhedrin took advantage of the absence of the Roman procurator to sentence him to be stoned to death. He was killed by a blow from a fulling stick, which smashed his skull. The saint is represented here in profile, reading a parchment. In his right hand he holds a fulling stick, the instrument with which he was killed.
This bas-relief was the admission piece that Jean-Jacques Clérion submitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture on 24 September 1689, two years after the approval of the model in 1687. Although the bas-relief is limited to one figure, the sculptor set out to demonstrate his mastery of his art: an academic nude, drapery, care taken over the details (hair, beard, stick), and differentiation of spatial planes to give the figure depth.

What is an admission piece?

An admission piece is the work an artist had to submit to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture to become a member. It was the equivalent of the sample of work master craftsmen had to submit to become members of a guild. For sculptors, article XIII of the Académie's 1663 statutes stipulates that it must be a marble bas-relief, and this remained largely the case until the late 17th century. Three main types can be distinguished: religious medallions (the case with Clérion's work), allegorical tableaus concerning the Académie, and allegorical scenes in honor of Louis XIV. There are a few notable exceptions, though: expressive heads, a few portraits, and an in-the-round statuette, Corneille Van Cleve's Polyphemus Sitting on a Rock (1681).

Admission to the Académie

A sculptor wishing to become a member of the Académie first had to have his work approved. The candidate brought several of his works, in plaster or terracotta. If this presentation was approved, by secret vote, the director of the Académie then indicated the subject the artist had to execute for his marble admission piece, within a set time limit.

Technical description

  • Jean-Jacques Clérion (Aix-en-Provence, 1637 - Paris, 1714)

    Saint James the Less

    1689

    Collection of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture

  • Marble

    H. 84 cm; W. 69 cm; D. 13 cm

  • Collections de l'Académie royale

    R.F. 3073

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Girardon Crypt
    Room 20

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