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Prosper d'Epinay (French, 1836-1914)
Prosper d'Epinay (French, 1836-1914)

Sylvie

Details
Prosper d'Epinay (French, 1836-1914)
Sylvie
marble
44in. (112 cm.) high
Provenance
The Artist's sale, Paris, 14 April 1902, no. 9.
Sale room notice
Please note this sculpture is signed 'd'Epinay' on the base.

Lot Essay

Born in British Mauritius, the son of a prominent politician, Prosper d'Epinay moved to Paris in 1851 initially working as a caricaturist before taking up sculpture some seven years later. D'Epinay left for Rome and then London in 1864 returning to France in the 1870's. Acclaimed for his busts of members of high society, most notably his portraits of Edward, Prince of Wales purchased by Queen Victoria, and his bust of the 'Impatrice d'Autriche', d'Epinay was highly successful on both sides of the channel.

D'Epinay's sculpted oeuvre covers a wide variety of subjects in marble, terracotta and bronze. An ecclectic artist, his subjects range from the antique sculpture that he would have seen first hand in Rome to the mannerist style of ecole de fountainbleu artist Jean Goyjon. The sensual languid lines and smoothly idealized forms link d'Epinay's work to the classical ideal honed in the late 18th/early 19th Century--the marrriage of Canova's elegance with a decorative flair.

The critic Thiebault-Sisson brightly titled his lengthy article on the sculpture L'Art Elegant, ties d'Epinay's art to these French and Italian traditions.

A prolific artist, d'Epinay exhibited at both the annual Paris Salon and at the London's Royal Academy but it was his 1874 Salon entry La Ceinture Dore that brought d'Epinay to the attention of the Parisien public. That figure of a nude supported by an urn in a neo-classical subject echoed in d'Epinay's 1872 Venus and again in his later marble of a reclining nude of Marion after the piece by Mollet(?) . D'Epinay's female sculptures are made up of clean curving lines that contrast with the 19th Century sense of 'fantaisie' reserved for the intricate arrangement of their cascading hair. The figure of Venus, stepping out of the water and wringing out her wet hair is frequently found in European painting as witnessed in the depictment of Venus by painters as early as Titian through to Ingres and Bouguereau (Fig. ). In Sylvie, d'Epinay borrows this mythological ideal and uses it to transform a very 19th Century model into his own modern ideal on an ancient theme.

The sculpture of Sylvie was first executed in 1876 and commissioned by the American millionaire newspaper owner, James Gordon Bennett founder of the Herald.

Fig. 24 William Bouguereau, Eve, 1871. (Photo: William Bouguereau, 1825-1905, Montreal, 1984, p. 121)

Fig. 25 Charles-Auguste Arnaud, Venus with Golden Hair, Muse national du Chteau, Chpigne.
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