Impressed by the extravagant surtout de table created for his elder brother, the duc d'Orléans, the previous decade, Antoine, duc de Montpensier (d.1890), the youngest of Louis-Philippe's five sons, commissioned a sumptuous garniture de cheminée from Barye in the early 1840s. Undoubtedly with the brief that, decoratively-speaking, it should rival his brother's commission, Barye was apparently given free rein as to the subject for the order. He chose to depict Roger's heroic rescue of Angelica, a well-known episode from Ariosto's epic poem, Orlando Furioso (1532, Canto X, stanzas xcii ff.), and a popular theme among contemporary Romantic artists, notably Ingres. Essentially re-writing the Greek myth of Perseus rescuing Andromeda on the winged horse Pegasus, the poem relates how, naked and chained to a rock on the Isle of Tears, Angelica, Princess of Cathay, is saved from the gruesome clutches of the sea monster Orc by the timely arrival of Roger, a pagan knight, riding on the back of the hippogriff, a mythical winged horse with the talons and beak of a hawk.
Its powerful sense of movement, exquisite detail and wonderful play of contrasting surface textures define Angélique et Roger montés sur l'hippogriffe as a masterpiece of 19th century sculpture, testifying to Barye's sculptural sense of scale and his artistic virtuosity. Including an elaborate suite (probably three pairs) of candelabra, featuring figures of Juno, Minerva and Venus and their respective attributes, the finished garniture was probably delivered to the duc de Montpensier shortly before 1844. The model was edited in two versions - the first with the hippogriff's mouth open, the second with it closed - and first offered in Besse's 1844 catalogue. Lifetime épreuves of both models (particularly the first) are rare, Poletti and Richarme estimating the combined total to be less than twenty. At the 1876 Atelier sale, the bronze modèle and plaster for the second version were acquired by Brame and a small edition subsequently cast.
This fine cast of the second version of Angélique et Roger montés sur l'hippogriffe formerly belonged to Louis Sarlin, whose collection, sold by Galerie Georges Petit, 2 March 1918, included twenty-three works by Barye, all but three of which were catalogued as épreuves anciennes (the three exceptions being the bronze and plaster modèles for Taureau terrassé par un ours and Napoleon Ier respectively, and a posthumous cast of Taureau attaqué par une lionne). This bronze is illustrated facing page 80 in the sale catalogue.
A garniture, including another cast of this second model and a pair of figural candelabra, was sold (after sale) in these rooms, 15 February 1995, lot 174 ($111,500).