Born at Anizy le Château in 1827, Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (Carrier de Belleuse) (d.1887) studied under David d'Angers at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris from 1840, and first exhibited at the Salon in 1851. From 1850 to 1854, he worked in England, under Léon Arnoux at Minton's porcelain works, and thereafter continued to model many small figures and groups for production in terracotta and porcelain as well as bronze.
One of the most prolific and versatile sculptors of the 19th century, he made his reputation with the group Salve Regina, shown at the 1861 Salon. His later works Bacchante (1863) and The Messiah (1867) brought him medals and the Légion d'Honneur. In the last years of the Second Empire, he executed many public commissions and was highly regarded by Napoleon III, who referred to him as 'our Clodion', though his slickness and facile sculpture repelled many of the intelligentsia. During the Paris Commune of 1871, he took refuge in Brussels but returned the following year and continued to work in Paris until his death. He worked in all medium, both traditional and modern, even experimenting with galvanoplasty and electroplating. His combination of materials, such as porcelain, for the features of his bronze statuettes anticipated the chryselephantine figures of the turn of the century. In his later years, he was director of works of art at the Sèvres porcelain factory. He employed a galaxy of rising young sculptors as assistants in his vast output of decorative bronzes and architectural sculpture, amongst whom Rodin and Mathurin Moreau. The present bronze shows strong influence with the modern movement which Rodin was instrumental in developing.
According to Greek mythology, the Lapiths, a peace-loving people of Thessaly, were celebrating the wedding of their King Pirithous to Hippodamia. The Centaurs were invited but quickly began to misbehave. One of them, Eurytus, full of liquor, tried to carry off the bride and soon a battle raged in which drinking vessels, table legs, antlers, in fact anything to hand, served as weapons. Finally, thanks chiefly to Theseus, the friend of Pirithous, who was among the guests, the Centaurs were driven off. To the ancients and in the Renaissance the theme symbolized the victory of civilization over barbarism.