Musée d'Orsay: Jules Desbois Male Torso

Jules Desbois
Male Torso

Male Torso
Jules Desbois (1851-1935)
Male Torso
Circa 1934
Torso in gilded bronze
H. 128; W. 105; D. 90 cm
© DR - RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Pierre Lagiewski

Torse d'homme [Male Torso]

Desbois worked with Rodin from 1884 to 1914. Following the path marked out for him by Rodin with She who was La Belle Heaulmière (1887) and by Camille Claudel with Clotho (1893), he first made his mark with the almost miserabilist realism of his group Death and the Woodcutter (1890, now destroyed) and his statue Poverty (1894-96). Gradually he tried to find his own style of expressionism, while adopting Rodin's principal invention: a fragment presented as a work in itself. To make this Torso cast in gilded bronze by Alexis Rudier in 1935, Desbois returned to an earlier work, Rock of Sisyphus, 1908, (a stone group now in the Musée Jules Desbois de Parcay-les-Pins, near Tours, executed in the house where the sculptor was born). The plaster model of this torso, the chief attraction at the Salon in 1934, was thus the work of a sculptor aged 84.

The success of the work can be explained by the memory of the Belvedere Torso, a mutilated antique, considered so beautiful when it was rediscovered at the Renaissance that Michelangelo himself is said to have refused to complete it. The familiar form, but twisting the other way and given more movement, reassured contemporaries of the "return to order". Everything conspires to draw the maximum character from the human figure: the energetic twist, and the masterly handling of the terse, powerful musculature. The gilding gives the volumes density and clarity. An original decorator, Desbois also produced pewter reliefs which are among the most inventive items in the museum's collections of objets d'art.

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