Mercié originally intended Gloria Victis to portray Fame and a victorious soldier. Following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, the victorious soldier was replaced by one in defeat. The full size plaster model was exhibited at the Salon of 1874, winning the Médaille d'Honneur. It was subsequently purchased by the city of Paris and cast in bronze by Thiébault. The plaster version was re-exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1878 alongside bronze reductions cast by Barbedienne. The sculpture became an instant classic; its success undoubtedly lay in the fact that it was admired
not just on an aesthetic level, but also on a patriotic level in its
commemoration of heroism in defeat. Critics marvelled at the daring
composition of the group; balancing as it did two figures on the
minimal support of one foot.
Another cast sold Christie's, New York, 19 April 2006, lot 93 ($50,400).