GUSTAVE DORÉ

(1832 - Paris - 1883)

 

Study for d'Artagnan, a maquette for the monument to Alexandre Dumas (1802 - 1870)

 

Circa 1883

Signed at front of base: G. Dore

Patinated plaster

63 x 40 x 30 cm

 

This sculpture is a plaster model for the monument dedicated to the novelist Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) that was erected in 1883 in Paris on Place Malesherbes (now Place du Général Catroux) in the 17th arrondissement.[1] The monument consists of a bronze statue that shows Dumas seated, alert with a quill in his hand, at the top of a tall pedestal on which a plaque features the titles of his most famous works: The Count of Monte-Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty years later and The Vicomte of Bragelonne. Further bronze figures animate both sides of the pedestal. One is a group of three readers leafing through one of his books while his hero d’Artagnan sits proudly on the other side. Leaning against his cape, the musketeer is represented wearing a richly detailed 17th century costume and holding his sword. 

The present plaster model is very close to the final composition, which is a realistic portrait of d’Artagnan full of movement and character. Doré had made two plaster models and they were both included in the sale held after his death in 1885[2]. The other plaster, also patinated, is now in the collection of a museum dedicated to the novelist, the Maison Alexandre Dumas located in the Château de Monte-Cristo in Port-Marly.[3] A terracotta version also exists and belongs to the Société des Amis d’Alexandre Dumas[4].

A painter, illustrator and sculptor, Doré led an immensely successful and varied career. Focusing on the human figure, he depicted the contemporary life of Paris with biting realism, while he also realized many religious and landscape paintings. Like Gérôme and Meissonier, he started sculpting late in life. He made his debut as a sculptor at the Salon in 1877 with a plaster of Fate and Love (La Parque et l’Amour) and he continued to sculpt and exhibit his works publicly for the remainder of his career. The monument to Alexandre Dumas was his most important sculptural project, which he realized in the last years of his life. The artist undertook to execute it without a fee as not enough funds could be raised for this public commission. On the day of the monument’s inauguration on 4 November 1883, Alexandre Dumas fils gave a discourse in memory of his father; poignantly, he also pronounced the funerary oration he had composed for Doré, who had died a few months before he could see the completion of his work. It is also said that Dumas fils served as a model for the portrait of his father at the top of the monument.

 

[1] Created in 1862, the place Malesherbes was renamed Place du Général Catroux in 1977. 

[2] Vente Doré 1885, lot 185 (“première idée, deux exemplaires”).

[3] see lit, Clapp and Lehni, n. 23, p. 249

[4] idem.

 
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