1902 Encyclopedia > Sculpture > French Sculpture - 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.

(Part 13)

French Sculpture - 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.

14th Century

In the 14th century French sculpture began to decline, though much beautiful plastic work was still produced. Some of the reliefs on the choir screen of Notre Dame at Paris belong to this period, as does also much fine sculp-ture on the transepts of Eouen cathedral and the west end of Lyons. At the end of this century an able sculptor from the Netherlands, called Claux Sluter, executed much fine work, especially at Dijon, under the patronage of Philip the Bold, for whose newly founded Carthusian monastery in 1399 he sculptured the great "Moses foun-tain " in the cloister, with six life-sized statues of prophets in stone, painted and gilt in the usual mediseval fashion.

15th Century

Not long before his death in 1411 Sluter completed a very magnificent altar tomb for Philip the Bold, now in the museum at Dijon. It is of white marble, surrounded with arcading, which contains about forty small alabaster figures representing mourners of all classes, executed with much dramatic power. The recumbent portrait effigy of Philip in his ducal mantle with folded hands is a work of great power and delicacy of treatment.

The latter part of the 15th century in France was a time of transition from the mediaeval style, which had gradually been deteriorating, to the more florid and real-istic taste of the Renaissance. To this period belong a number of rich reliefs and statues on the choir-screen of Chartres cathedral. Those on the screen at Amiens are later still, and exhibit the rapid ad-vance of the new style. Fig. 11 shows a statuette in the costume of the end of the 15th century, a characteristic example of the later mediseval method of treating saints in a realistic way.

16th Century

In the 16th century Italian influence, especially that of Benvenuto Cellini, was paramount in France. Jean Goujon (d. 1572) was the ablest French sculptor of the time; he combined great technical skill and refinement of modelling with the florid and affected style of the age. His nude figure of Diana reclining by a Stag, now in the Louvre, is a graceful and vigorous piece of work, superior in sculpturesque breadth to the somewhat similar bronze relief of a nymph by Cellini. Between 1540 and 1552 Goujon executed the fine monument at Rouen to Duke Louis de Breze, and from 1555 to 1562 was mainly occupied in decorating the Louvre with sculpture. One of the most pleasing and graceful works of this period, thoroughly Italian in style, is the marble group of the Three Graces bearing on their heads an urn containing the heart of Henry II.,
executed in 1560 by Germain Pilon for Catherine de' Medici. The monument of Catherine and Henry II. at St Denis, by the same sculptor, is an inferior and coarser work. Maitre Ponce, probably the same as the Italian Ponce Jacquio, chiselled the noble monument of Albert of Carpi (1535), now in the Louvre. Another very fine portrait effigy of about 1570, a recumbent figure in full armour of the duke of Montmorency, preserved in the Louvre, is the work of Barthélémy Prieur. François Duquesnoy of Brussels (1594-1644), usually knowm as II Fiamingo, was a clever sculptor, thoroughly French in style, though he mostly worked in Italy. His large statues are very poor, but his reliefs in ivory of boys and cupids are modelled with won-derfully soft realistic power and graceful fancy.

No sculptor of any great merit appears to have arisen in France during the 17th century, though some, such as the two Coustous, had great technical skill. Pierre Puget (1622-1694) produced vigorous but coarse and tasteless work, such as his Milo devoured by a Lion. Other sculptors of the time were Simon Guillain, François and Michel Anguier, and Chas. Ant. Coyzevox (1640-1720), the last a sculptor of Lyons who produced some fine portrait busts. Fig. 12 shows a group by Clodion, whose real name was Claude Michel (c. 1745-1814). He worked largely in terra-cotta, and modelled with great spirit and invention, though in the sensual unsculpturesque manner prevalent in his time.

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