An exquisitely detailed model of a Spanish peasant rider trudging downhill on a blanketed mule, the work is characteristic of Isidore Bonheur in his careful and accurate depiction of the animal’s calm and easy-going demeanor as it places one foot before the other. Properly scaling out the proportions for both the rider and the mule is difficult and this is a complex scene to pull off - Bonheur accomplishes this with flawless realism, as the rider leans backwards and braces himself against the slight slope. An intricate display of blankets with twisted tassels, the provincial riding blanket beneath this with long knotted tassels swinging with the donkey’s legs and the intricate tasseled crown worn by the donkey are all depicted with crisp and convincing realism. The rocky base is signed in his typical blocked script “I BONHEUR” along the front left. Like the majority of his works, the sculpture was cast by his brother-in-law, Hippolyte Peyrol, and is stamped to the reverse “PEYROL” in a tiny marking. It is a lost-wax cast with dozens of individually cast elements brought together flawlessly. The underside shows standard base construction for the Peyrol firm, with a relatively clean core and “rose-head” ground joinery.
Literature & Further Reading:
Animals in Bronze, Christopher Payne, p. 311, f. H101 [present example]
E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. II, Gründ, 2006, p. 802-803
The Bronzes of the Nineteenth Century: A Dictionary of Sculptors, Pierre Kjellberg, 1994, p. 101-106
Bronze Sculpture of Les Animaliers, Jane Horswell, 1971, p. 201-216
The Animaliers, James Mackay, 1973, p. 46-55
Art Bronzes, Michael Forrest, 1988, p. 471
Measurements: 14” H x 12 1/2” W x 4 1/8” D
Notes: While this sculpture is generally found with the rider carrying a short riding stick in his upper hand, the variation of the same figure holding reins in his upper hand is known. See Sotheby’s, Sale L08232, 11 November 2008, lot 31 for an example. It is a possibility that the reins in both sculptures are added in the absence of the staff.
Condition Report: Original patina. Very slight wiggle to front leg of rider. Wear to edges of the base, some older wax and grime build-up in the crevices. Otherwise cleaned, waxed and polished; beautifully preserved.
“Spanish Rider” Antique French Bronze Sculpture by Isidore Bonheur