Félicie de Fauveau. The Amazon Sculptress

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The Rebirth of the Decorative Arts

Félicie de Fauveau ; Emile Jeannest, bronzierGorget of the Duchesse de Berry© Patrick Durandet – Conseil général de Vendée – Conservation des musées / expositions
An admirer of the Renaissance sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, Fauveau devoted herself, like him, to sculpture and the decorative arts, "at once a sculptor, architect and colourist, embracing art as a monument, a decoration and an industry". Blurring the boundaries between disciplines, without disdaining the ordinary objects of daily life, Fauveau designed ceremonial daggers and picture frames for Prince Anatole Demidoff as well as jewellery and walking stick handles.

Nevertheless, she did not succumb entirely to the demands of lucrative serial production: her works were almost always unique. She was very particular in her choice of collaborators, entrusting the lost wax casting for the Lamp of Saint Michel to the renowned founder Honoré Gonon. Fauveau's skill in evoking an archaic style is evident in the subtle polychromy, the delicacy, the meticulous refinement and the abundance of detail: "swarming with pygmies" was her description of the bell for the Grand Duchess of Russia, into which she slipped a portrait of herself sculpting a window and her brother Hippolyte working on the bell.

Princes and Patrons

Félicie de Fauveau ; Hippolyte de FauveauRight Foot of the Dancer Fanny Elssler© Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
Attracted by the hospitality of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the pleasant climate there, European aristocrats flocked to Florence and would always pay a visit to the Studio Fauveau. True to her monarchist ideal of divine right, Fauveau worked almost exclusively for patrons who wanted to own figures of the saints, whatever their religious beliefs. Russians figured prominently among her illustrious clientele. Following a number of commissions from the Grand Duchess of Russia Maria Nikolaevna (1819-1876), her father, Tsar Nicolas I (1796-1855), sought out Fauveau, an admirer of his autocratic rule. He visited her in her studio in 1846 and, for the terrace of the Cottage Palace in Peterhof, he commissioned a graceful Fountain with Nymph and Dolphin, a rare example of a nude in Fauveau's work.

For the San Donato villa of the Prince Anatole Demidoff (1827-1891), Félicie and Hippolyte designed decorations and ornaments to highlight his sumptuous collection, for example the base of François-Joseph Bosio's Henri IV as a Child.

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