Born in 1854 in Gavernac, Denys-Pierre Puech began his career as an artist at sixteen when he apprenticed for two years with a marble mason in the nearby town of Rodez. In 1872, he moved to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, whilst assisting in the studios of various established sculptors during the day, including Jouffroy, Falguière and Chapu. In 1884 he won the much-coveted Prix de Rome for the work Mézence blessé, which signalled the start of his official career as a sculptor and from which point he began to receive frequent commissions from the French state.
In 1888, Puech modelled and exhibited his plaster version of Muse d'André Chenier in the Paris Salon (no. 4554). The state commissioned a marble version of the work, which was exhibited the following year (no. 4839) and subsequently installed in the Musée du Luxembourg. André Chenier was a well-known royalist poet guillotined in the final days of Robespierre's reign of terror. It was during the 141 days he spent incarcerated in the St Lazare prison prior to his execution that Chenier met Anne Françoise-Aimée de Franquetot de Coigny, the woman who became his muse, and whom Puech has depicted cradling the poet's severed head in his Salon model. A marble replica of the latter was executed in 1896 and is now in the Musée d'Orléans. At the 1900 Exposition Universelle, Puech exhibited a version of Chenier's muse on a naturalistic rock-form base, similar to that seen on the present half-size reduction.
Also dating from 1888, and subsequently sold at Christie's New York, 26 October 2006, lot 276, is an apparently unrecorded adaptation of Puech's full-size Salon version in which the artist substitutes the poet's head with a basket containing a kitten.