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A FRENCH TERRACOTTA GROUP OF A GLADIATOR CAUGHT IN THE GRASP OF A BEAR, modelled and cast by Emmanuel Fremiet, the man naked save for gladiator's boots and cap, the bear wounded by the gladiator's dagger, the bear's cub holding onto to its parents left leg, signed E. FREMIET, second half 19th Century

Details
A FRENCH TERRACOTTA GROUP OF A GLADIATOR CAUGHT IN THE GRASP OF A BEAR, modelled and cast by Emmanuel Fremiet, the man naked save for gladiator's boots and cap, the bear wounded by the gladiator's dagger, the bear's cub holding onto to its parents left leg, signed E. FREMIET, second half 19th Century
11in. (28cm.) high
Literature
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
New York, Shepherd Gallery, Western European Bronzes of the Nineteenth Century, 1973, nos. 35a & b
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, The Romantics to Rodin, 1980, no. 147, pp. 279-80
Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Emmanuel Fremiet, 1824-1910, 1988, no. S130, p. 98

Lot Essay

Emmanuel Fremiet (1824-1910) achieved fame with his animal sculptures, in particular the small scale works which he edited in bronze himself. Fremiet also turned his attention to groups of man with animals, partly influenced by the growing Darwinian and anthropological knowledge, in which man's supremacy is undermined. The most scandalous of these at the time, was his Gorilla Carrying off a Negress, which was refused at the Salon of 1859. Another was his Bear and Stone-Age Man of 1885, and which shows a hunter with a strangled bear cub and the enraged adult crushing the hunter. The present group is an alternative, in which the hunter has been transformed into a gladiator. The plaster original was exhibited at the Salon of 1850, and again at the Crystal Palace exhibition in New York in 1853, where it was destroyed in the fire. Fortunately, it exists in a reduced size, edited in a small quantity both in bronze and terracotta. A terracotta version is in a private collection while a second appeared on the New York art market in 1988 (Sotheby's, 29 April 1988, Lot 3294). These terracottas are cast, but with delicate tooling applied before firing. The subject depicts a retiarius or Roman gladiator who fought with a knife and net. The knife is shown plunged in the bear's left shoulder, while the net hangs between the man and bear. Though wounded, the bear has crushed the gladiator, who slumps lifeless in its arms, while the cub clings to its mother's left leg. Using an Antique theme, Fremiet has created a realistic depiction of a ferocious bear, its fur carefully worked, together with a fine study of the inert human nude. The present model is a rare and interesting work by this original 19th century sculptor.
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