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Work The Abduction of Deianira

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Nessus Abducting Deianira

Decorative Arts

Baratte Sophie

The subject of this group is the abduction of Deianira, wife of Hercules, by the centaur Nessus. The little bronze with its two intertwined figures is very animated. Nessus's head-band bears the signature of Giambologna, who made the sculpture around 1576. Three copies are known, each signed by the artist. This may be one of the two Abductions of Deianira given to the king in 1693 by André Le Nôtre, the royal gardener.

The group in the work of Giambologna

Giambologna was paid on 30 April 1577 for a group cast for the Salviati family, a bronze now in the Galleria Colonna in Rome. Giambologna's workshop cast three different versions of this group that are extant; they differ in the position of Deianira and in the gestures of Nessus. The group in the Louvre seems to be the earliest of the three, which are signed by the artist. Le Nôtre offered the King two Abductions of Deianira, which may have carried the Crown inventory numbers 56 and 175, 176, or 177.

A gift from André Le Nôtre

André Le Nôtre, the King's Gardener, was a collector of paintings, bronze statuettes, medals, and porcelain. In 1693 he offered the King the best pieces from his collection: twenty-one paintings, thirty-one bronzes, and some porcelain. To thank him, the King exhibited these pieces at Versailles to be admired by the court. The bronzes offered by Le Nôtre were among the finest in the royal collection. Six of the seven Giambologna bronzes of the Abduction of Deianira that belonged to the royal collection have now been identified.

The royal bronzes and the public

The small bronzes in the king's collection were intended to adorn the royal apartments, but many were kept at the Paris premises of the Royal Furniture Repository, a department of the royal household. In 1788 part of the Repository, housed in what is now the Hôtel de la Marine in the Place de la Concorde, was laid out as a gallery in order to show these bronzes to the public, with labels indicating the subject. Visitors were admitted on the first Tuesday of each month.

Technical description

  • GIAMBOLOGNA, originally Jean BOULOGNE (Douai, 1529 - Florence, 1608)

    Nessus Abducting Deianira

  • Bronze

    H. 42.10 cm; W. 30.50 cm

  • Gift of Le Nôtre to Louis XIV in 1693

    Signed: "IOA BOLONGIE"

    OA 11896

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Léonard Limosin
    Room 529

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Additional information about the work

Signed IOA BOLONGIE on the centaur's head-band; N 176 engraved on its left buttock