Félicie de Fauveau. The Amazon Sculptress

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Florence, Home and Refuge

Félicie de FauveauClémence Isaure Establishing the Floral Games© Photo Daniel Martin
In 1833, Félicie de Fauveau went into exile in the strongly Catholic country of her birth: Italy. She remained there for the rest of her life in spite of the amnesty of 1837. She was attracted to Florence, an artistic and cultural centre, but more importantly the crucible of the golden age of Italian art. From this point on, her works were deeply influenced by the art of the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance, which she studied avidly.
Although not part of the artistic circles of the Tuscan capital, she was immediately invited to stay with the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, became close friends with the painter Antonio Marini whose passion for Dante she shared, and met visiting artists. While continuing with her sculpture, she and her brother Hippolyte also bought and sold paintings.

Her studio, decked out with fabrics and wall hangings for the visits of illustrious figures like the Comte de Chambord and the Tsar, was frequented by both art lovers and those who were merely curious. However, even at the height of her activity in 1840, Fauveau only employed four assistant sculptors to cut the marble mainly into small sizes.

Intransigent Legitimism

Félicie de Fauveau ; Hippolyte de FauveauHalf Length Portrait of the Marquise Boccella© Musée d'Orsay / Patrice Schmidt
Her commissioned portraits, often undertaken through financial necessity and always highly remunerative, flattered the model or were designed as a souvenir of someone dear. Fauveau submitted to this practice, supported by her pragmatic mother: "Portraits are the best aspect of art, and they are the most lucrative". She did, however, remain true to her convictions, only accepting commissions from the friends and family, royalist foreigners and French legitimist aristocrats who flocked to her studio. In these portraits, she chose to highlight status rather than offer psychological insight, preferring "expressive" high relief to sculpture in the round.

The noble birth of her models was proclaimed through coats of arms and their allegiances through inscriptions and royal symbols highlighted with polychromy. The portrait of the Marquis Forbin des Issarts, in the form of a holy water font affirms the former peer of France's loyalty to the Bourbons, whereas the daughters of the Duc de Rohan are portrayed decoratively in a roll of leather emerging from a golden background.
Exceptions to this rule were the portraits of the flamboyant Baron François Dudon with its baroque highlights and of the Vicomte Brétignières de Courteilles, both of whom are given a more conventional treatment.

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