• 500 Years Decorative Arts Euro auction at Christies

    Sale 2305

    500 Years Decorative Arts Europe Including Oriental Carpets

    20 April 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 109

    A FRENCH PATINATED BRONZE GROUP ENTITLED 'GORILLE DU GABON'

    CAST FROM A MODEL BY EMMANUEL FREMIET, LATE 19TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A FRENCH PATINATED BRONZE GROUP ENTITLED 'GORILLE DU GABON'
    CAST FROM A MODEL BY EMMANUEL FREMIET, LATE 19TH CENTURY
    Signed E. FREMIET, on a mottled green and black marble plinth with title plaquette
    19 in. (48.3 cm.) high, the group


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Frémiet first worked on the theme of the confrontation between man and animal in 1850 with his Ours blessé. The first version of the present subject, a gorilla abducting a woman, was submitted to the Salon of 1859 but was refused by the jury, condemned by critics and rejected by the public. Moreover, the original plaster was destroyed in Frémiet's atelier fire.

    Twenty-eight years later the sculptor returned to the theme altering the African features of the abducted woman, adding elements of combat (the rock in the gorilla's hand and the spear in his back) as well as other changes to the position of the figures and the naturalistic ground. The plaster won the médaille d'Honneur at the Salon of 1887 and many commissions for the work were received. The change in the public's attitude towards the sculpture was due less to these subtle alterations in the composition and more to a better understanding of the subject itself: the belief that the ape had a sexual appetite for women and that these animals were caricatures of mankind with all its vices, had made the violent and sensual tone of the work unpalatable to the mid-century bourgeoisie. By 1887, however, the public would have been more accustomed to the idea of the ape as an ancestor of man, due in large part to the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species. Consequently, the work was no longer perceived as a vulgar sensational statement but was interpreted as a Darwinian drama, depicting the struggle of man in nature and the relationship of the human race to the animal world.

    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE FLORIDA COLLECTION (LOT 109)