Born in Angers in 1835, Zacharie Astruc was a student of various disciplines, including painting, sculpture, classic literature, and contemporary journalism. The artist exhibited in the Salon from 1869 to 1902 and founded the journal Le Salon dedicated to art criticism.
Originally exhibited in plaster in the 1880 Paris Salon (No. 6060), Astruc's celebrated work Marchand des Masques fittingly pays homage to revered writers and artists, many of them his contemporaries in both art and literature. The masks represented here are Dumas, Berlioz, Carpeaux, Faure, Delacroix, Balzac, d'Aurevilly, Gambetta, Gounod and Hugo. A bronze version of the group was later exhibited in the 1883 Salon and resulted in a commission for a two meter cast to adorn the Jardin du Luxembourg, where it remains today.