Though she only produced a limited variety of sculpture models in her lifetime, Rosa Bonheur’s sheep are some of the most cherished. Sensitive and exacting, the manner in which she could capture their chaotic wool while also rendering very fine details in the skin of the eyes and striations in the fur of the legs and face is noteworthy. This model in particular is an exquisite representation of her abilities, the detailing clearly captured from the mold and not simply chased and filed into the surface by the foundry. It is fitting that it was her first sculpture to exhibit at the Paris Salon of 1842.
Rosa was particularly good at capturing charming characteristics of her animals without even a hint of the Romanticism found in works by academic animal sculptures of the years prior whereby emotions and expressions were imposed on the creatures with little regard for reality. Her grazing ewe is a gentle creature, confident and safe as it grazes in the peaceful pasture briefly represented in the naturalistic base. The light and dark brown surface patina is acid etched and a permanent part of the metal, this being silky and smooth to the touch. Typical of her work, it is crisply signed in the cast “Rosa B” and does not bear any foundry markings - while the majority of her work was presumably cast by her brother-in-law, Hippolyte Peyrol, her bronzes are only marked with his tiny stamp infrequently. The present model shows the early base construction used by Peyrol with fully ground nuts visible from the underside; it is almost without doubt from the Peyrol foundry. Mouton Broutant is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Bordeaux in France, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as well as the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Literature & Further Reading:
Animals in Bronze, Christopher Payne, p. 371-2
Bronzes of the 19th Century, Dictionary of Sculptors, Pierre Kjellberg, p. 106-107
Art Bronzes, Michael Forrest, p. 471
Bronze Sculpture of Les Animaliers, Jane Horswell, 1971, p. 177
The Animaliers, James Mackay, 1971, p. 49
Rosa Bonheur: Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre, Anna Klumpke, 1909
Born in Bordeaux, France on March 16th, 1822, Marie-Rosalie Bonheur studied under her father, Raymond Bonheur, and with Cogniet. She first exhibited at the Salon in 1841 with a selection of paintings, exhibiting again in 1842 and bringing her first sculpture to debut in 1843. Over the next seven years, she produced roughly fifteen animalier models, many of these sculptures in terra cotta and plaster that were cast later in bronze. Among her numerous awards was a Salon Gold Medal in 1848, the LH in 1865 and the LHO 1893. After winning the Gold Medal at Salon for a painting, she began to focus more entirely on her paintings.
Measurements: 5 7/8” H x 8 1/2” W x 3 7/8” D
Condition Report: Very minor rubbing highlights to raised elements. Original patina.