Both painter and sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Clésinger (1814-1883), was born in Besçanon. He studied with his father Georges Philippe Clésinger, who took him to Rome where he worked in the workshop of Torvaldsen in 1832. It was shortly after his sojourn in Rome that he changed his first name to Auguste, deeming it more fitting to his talent. He made further study trips to Florence and Switzerland before finally returning to Paris in 1847.
The present sensual image of the dying Cleopatra which Clésinger created in 1861, is a good example of his oeuvre which drew its inspiration largely from mythology and shows a marked preference for half clad ladies in volutuous poses. Carved in marble, his most famous sculpture entitled Femme piquée par un serpent caused a storm when it was shown at the 1847 Salon. The public and critics alike were scandalised not only because of the nudity of the subject but also because the statue was carved after a plaster model taken from life. For his model Clésinger took Baudelaire's muse, Apollonie Sabatier (1822-1890), a Parisian beauty who held a Salon in Paris and was familiarly known as "La Présidente"; in lending her body to Clésinger she brought him unhoped-for success.
P. Kjellberg, Les bronzes du XIXe si©ecle, Paris, 1989, pp. 215-217.