Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887) moved to Paris from Anisy-le-Château as a child, where he apprenticed to the ciseleur Beauchery and the goldsmith Fauconnier, who was also the employer of Barye. He briefly attended the École des Beaux-Arts in 1840, joining students such as Chapu and Carpeaux.
Carrier-Belleuse stands out from the major sculptors of the Second Empire not only as the most prolific artist of his day, but as the one whose oeuvre touches upon every possible outlet available in the decorative arts, from terracotta to bronze, marble and gold. He created works on many different scales and with many different uses - from monumental pieces to trophies, clocks, statuettes, vases and jewellery.
In 1848, Carrier-Belleuse received his first official commission from the new Republic. Notable architectural projects include the torchères for the Grand Staircase of the Paris Opéra and the decorative work for the Hôtel de Pava.
He debuted at the Salon in 1850, and left France for England the same year to become director of the design school at the Minton porcelain manufactory in Staffordshire, a post he held for five years. Upon his return to Paris the sculptor's career flourished. His annual exhibitions at the Salons awarded him various medals, and his works were consistently lauded for their freshness and vitality.
During the Paris Commune in 1871, Carrier-Belleuse briefly moved his business to Brussels, but returned to Paris after the war where his success continued despite the new political regime. A talented entrepreneur, Carrier-Belleuse organized seventeen lucrative auctions of his own work beginning in 1868, an unusual practice for a living artist. At the height of his production, he commanded a vast studio with fifty assistants. In 1885 he was promoted to Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur, two years before his death at Sèvres.
Carrier-Belleuse's commercial success, proliferation, and level of craftsmanship, helps to explain the influence that he held over his various students: Dalou, Cheret, Falguière, and of course Auguste Rodin.
Repeatedly throughout his career, Carrier-Belleuse returned to the motif of a allegorical or mythological female figure. This motif was particularly applicable to the Romantic sculptural programmes of the Second Empire. Napoleon III himself referred to the sculptor as 'our Clodion', remarking upon the obvious influence of the 18th century on the artist's work.