Sculptures — Les Animaliers
Early in the 19th century, sculptures of animals depicted without their human “masters” were not considered worthy artistic subjects. Sculptors who specialized in animals were ridiculed by the press and derisively called “animaliers.”
However, important commissions from aristocrats offered respectability to animal sculptures and their creators. Commissions for the 1878 Paris Exposition solidified the reputations of prominent animaliers, who kept the epithet.
Animal sculptures at the 1878 Paris Exposition
Four animal sculptures were commissioned to decorate the 1878 Paris Exposition. They occupied a large fountain in front of the Palais du Tracadéro. Now they’re exhibited near the entrance of the Musée d’Orsay.
Horse with a Harrow
A horse without harness stands proudly, left leg lifted high, looking back at an overturned harrow. The animal, whose muscular body and wild nature the sculptor has emphasized, is decidedly not a beast of burden.
Young Elephant Caught in a Trap
A panicked baboon screeches as it observes an elephant calf whose foot is caught in a noose.
The Indian rhinoceros sculpture was enormously popular at the 1878 Paris Exposition. Was the woolly rhinoceros perhaps known to the public from cave paintings — at Rouffignac, for example, discovered in the 16th century?
Two cast iron bulls were also exhibited at the 1878 Paris Exposition. Currently they decorate the entrance to Parc Georges-Brassens (former site of a slaughterhouse).
I read somewhere that after the 1878 Paris Exposition, the commissioned animal sculptures were mothballed for safekeeping in a storage area.
So there’s a place in Paris where art sleeps? If so, how can I get there?
Bear nabs thief in Jardin des Plantes
Frémiet, the same animalier who sculpted the trapped elephant calf for the 1878 Paris Exposition, also created the violent Cub Hunter:
The Lion of Belfort
The imperious lion at Place Denfert-Rochereau is a smaller version of the gigantic one in the town of Belfort, commemorating the courage of the residents in staving off the Prussians (1870-1871). The sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi, is best known for designing the colossal Statue of Liberty for New York Harbor.
Lion safeguarding universal suffrage
At Place de la République, which celebrates the democratic values of the French Republic, a lion dutifully protects a ballot box.