Ernest Barrias
Nature Unveiling Herself to Science

Nature Unveiling Herself to Science
Ernest Barrias (1841-1905)
Nature Unveiling Herself to Science
1899
Marble and polychrome onyx from Algeria, grey granite pedestal, malachite scarab, lapis lazuli ribbon
H. 200; W. 85; D. 55 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / René-Gabriel Ojéda


Nature Unveiling Herself to Science
Nature Unveiling Herself to Science

La Nature se dévoilant devant la Science [Nature Unveiling Herself to Science]


The statue was commissioned in 1889 to decorate the new medical school in Bordeaux. A young woman, the allegory of nature, is slowly lifting the veils she is wrapped in. When he had finished the first version in white marble for the school, Barrias designed a second statue in polychrome, for the ceremonial staircase of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, in Paris. He used marble and onyx from the newly reopened quarries in Algeria.

Carefully carved to enhance the decorative qualities of the materials, the various parts of the statue play on the veins in the ribboned onyx for the veil, the mottled effect of the red marble for the robe, the preciousness of lapis lazuli for the eyes and malachite for the scarab and coral for the mouth and lips.

The overall effect is surprisingly rich. The work belongs to a major revival of polychrome sculpture launched by archaeological discoveries and illustrated fifty years earlier by Cordier. The statue was very popular and many copies were made.




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