Le Mineur

Jean Carriès
Le Mineur
entre 1886 et 1887
statue en cire brun-rouge sur âme en plâtre patiné
H. 72,0 ; L. 36,6 ; P. 34,7 cm.
Achat, 1998
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Jean Carriès (1855 - 1894)
Niveau médian, Salle 56

The Miner forcefully incarnates an unexpected aspect of Carriès' sculpture. The figure modelled in wax over a plaster "core" probably represents a coalman, as Carriès himself said in a letter to his friend and patron Ménard-Dorian. The two hats are likely to be a whimsical gesture by the artist, whose taste for hats is clear in many sculptures. The patina on the plaster and reddish brown wax is particularly successful and the figure is not unlike Carriès' wax Self-portrait now in the Musée du Petit Palais. The Miner is a powerful, sober image, simultaneously suggesting a labourer, a peasant and a craftsman.
Carriès exhibited his work in 1886 at the Cercle d'Art des XX in Brussels. The previous year, Constantin Meunier had shown a wax figure of a Docker from Antwerp. The interest shown in sculptures of labourers at the time did not escape Carriès. That a stoneware version of this figure could be entitled Germinal (Zola's novel of the same name was published in 1885) proves that it was received by the artist's contemporaries as an emblematic rather than literal portrayal of the working world.