Félicie de Fauveau. The Amazon Sculptress

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Mademoiselle de Fauveau's Early Career

Félicie de FauveauSelf Portrait with a Greyhound© Daniel Lindner, 2013
Born into a family ennobled in 1740, Félicie de Fauveau learned how to paint before discovering sculpture in Besançon, when, after a single discussion with a craftsman who produced religious statues, she declared: "I too am a sculptor". We know of no other training she received in this medium.
After the death of her father in 1826, the family moved to Paris; her mother hosted an influential salon in the rue de La Rochefoucauld in the heart of the Nouvelle Athènes artistic quarter, where Fauveau's studio was next to that of the painter Ary Scheffer. Like her contemporaries, Fauveau read Walter Scott, Shakespeare and Dante. She embarked on a number of detailed studies, teaching herself about history, heraldry and medieval art, sharing her discoveries with her friend Paul Delaroche.

Fauveau's career then took off thanks to family connections at the court of King Charles X (1824-1830) and to the protection of the influential Duc de Duras. His daughter, Félicie de La Rochejaquelein, became a friend of the artist, and the "two Félicies" continued to maintain an intense relationship, which, in spite of the physical distance between them, lasted until the death of the countess in 1883.
In order to support her family, and no doubt driven by a deep-seated desire to succeed, Fauveau decided to adopt a "professional" approach. She was the first female sculptor to make a living from her art. Her first submission to the Salon, at the age of 26, turned out to be a masterstroke: her Christine of Sweden won praise from all quarters, and her reputation was established once and for all. She was commissioned by Charles X to model some doors for the Louvre, designed a tabernacle for Metz cathedral (not executed) and produced the Lamp of Saint Michel and the Monument to Dante for the Comte de Pourtalès.
On the eve of the July Revolution, Félicie de Fauveau was a promising young Parisian artist, and had already achieved an enviable reputation.

The Epic Events of the Vendée

Félicie de FauveauPortrait of the Duchesse de Berry© Musée d'Orsay / Patrice Schmidt
When Charles X was forced to abdicate in 1830, signalling the end of the Bourbon Restoration, the course of Félicie de Fauveau's life changed, and became inextricably linked to the History of France. Charles X had designated the Duc de Bordeaux as his successor, but it was the Duc d'Orléans, more inclined to compromise with the liberal deputies, who was proclaimed king by Parliament, as Louis-Philippe I.
The elder Legitimist branch of the Bourbons, descendants of Louis XIV, was deposed in favour of the younger branch. The Duc de Bordeaux, the Legitimist pretender Henri d'Artois, became the Comte de Chambord under the July Monarchy (1830-1848). To his followers, like Félicie de Fauveau, he would always be Henri V.

In 1831, Félicie de Fauveau went to Landebaudière to rejoin her friend the Comtesse de La Rochejaquelein, the sister-in-law of the famous monarchist general; her chateau in the Vendée became a stronghold for the conspirators. Notwithstanding the decorative military elements that Fauveau produced for her comrades in arms, this period marked a turning point in her career: the unconventional artist now made way for the fascinating heroine of the Vendée. Once discovered, Fauveau was imprisoned for three months.
On her release, she briefly took up arms once again in support of the Duchesse de Berry. Knowing that she would be arrested, she had no alternative but to go into exile in 1833. Her activities in the Vendée affected her forever, and she referred to herself as an "equerry" in the service of her "master", the Comtesse de La Rochejaquelein.

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