Antoine-Louis Barye was dubbed the 'Michelangelo of the Menagerie' by the celebrated art critic, Théophile Gautier, in L'Illustration, May 1866. At age 70, the grandfather of animalier sculptors had overcome the Salon refusals and financial insecurity that had dogged his early career and, now famous throughout the world, had finally reached the zenith of his artistic achievement. Ironically, yet symptomatic of his love-hate-relationship with the art establishment, that same year Barye's candidature for a prestigious seat in the Académie des beaux-arts was rejected in favour of another sculptor. It would be another two years before a unanimous vote of the Académie would belatedly acknowledge his invaluable contribution over the previous half-century.
In his widely respected catalogue raisonné, published in 1974, Stuart Pivar aptly refers to a certain 'quality' about Barye bronzes, which renders them 'eminently collectable'. The late-19th- and early-20th-century amateur's desire to acquire a few representative examples of the sculptor's work was rapidly superceded by a thirst to possess a cast of each and every of his models. In many cases, the models themselves were duplicated within a collection, in an attempt to record the multiple variations in patina, ciselure, size and nuance of pose, all characteristics of the Barye bronze. Unsurprisingly, this led to the assembly of several truly enormous collections. For the most part, these were later bequeathed or gifted to museums by their owners, and are now on display in institutions such as the Louvre, Paris, the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, The Baltimore Musuem of Art and the Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington D.C., to name but a few
The following 160 bronzes were assembled during the early decades of the last century by wealthy Brazilian industrialist, Eduardo Guinle. Apart from its overall quality, size and breadth, what singles this collection out as one of the most important offerings of Barye's work to appear at auction for several decades, is its inclusion of no less than fourteen of the sculptor's original modèles, which in most cases have been 'lost' for the last seventy-five years.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1878, Guinle was the eldest of seven children born to Eduardo Palassin Guinle and Guilhermina Coutinho. In 1888, together with his business partner and friend, Cândido Gaffrée, his father obtained a ninety-year concession on the port of Santos, south of Rio, which was rapidly developed and, due principally to the export of coffee, soon became the largest port in Latin America. Guinle graduated in civil and electrical engineering from the city's Escola Politécnica and, in 1903, after a period of further study at the General Electric Research Centre in New York, he returned to Brazil, where using both his father's contacts and those developed himself whilst in the United States, he became the national representative for large overseas companies, such as General Electric and Otis Elevators. He also gained valuable contracts to produce and supply electricity to his native Rio, and to the cities of Salvador and Niteroi.
In 1909, having amassed considerable wealth, Guinle began building a large mansion in Rio, known later as the Palácio Laranjeiras (see photo above right). Designed in the beaux-arts style by renowned architects, Armando Silva Telles and Joseph Gire, the residence was completed in 1914, decorated by the fashionable Parisian firm, Maison Bettenfeld, and rapidly filled with valuable European art, including paintings by Tiepolo, Chardin, Fragonard and Corot, magnificent furniture and Gobelin tapestries, and, of course, the collection of nearly two hundred bronzes by Antoine-Louis Barye.
In the apparent absence of any records concerning Guinle's collecting, other than where it is indicated by recognizable inventory labels, exhibition étiquettes, or in the case of the several modèles, irrefutable documentation, provenance is in most cases largely a matter of supposition. That said, for a man of apparently limitless funds and with an obvious thirst for collecting, the several major private-owner sales of the early 1900s including numerous works by Barye (see list on page 16) would have proved an undeniable draw. Doubtless, Guinle's business obligations and recreational pursuits would have taken him to Paris on a semi-regular basis, giving him ample opportunity to attend such auctions. However, the absence of his name as a buyer from the many available annotated sale catalogues of the period would suggest he was acquiring his Baryes through an intermediary, thereby ensuring his own anonymity and the secrecy of such an important collection for decades to come.
After Guinle's death in 1941, the Barye collection was reputedly divided among his three children, Cesar, Eduardo and Evangelina. Whilst Cesar retained his share, his siblings sold their bronzes to their uncle, Eduardo's brother Carlos. In 1965, Carlos Guinle decided to sell the collection en bloc, and a private sale was negotiated with the family trust who have remained its owner ever since. In addition to the thirteen modèles (fourteen, if one accepts lot 25, Cavalier arabe tuant un sanglier, to be the master-bronze) included in this sale, a further four were among the bronzes inherited by Cesar Guinle. Along with sixteen other épreuves, these were sold anonymously by Caesar's descendants at Christie's New York, 25 May 1995, lots 144-163. Like nine of the modèles here, all four of those sold in 1995 - Lion dévorant une biche (lot 144; $25,300), Aigle, les ailes étendues (lot 145; $17,250), Élan surpris par un lynx (lot 148; $40,350; see illustration to right) and Buffle (lot 158; $17,250) - were formerly in the collection of Jacques Zoubaloff, sold in 1927.
References to the following works, consulted in the preparation of this catalogue, appear in abbreviated form within the catalogue entries:
Ballu, R., L'Oeuvre de Barye, Paris, 1890
Benge, G. F., Antoine-Louis Barye, Sculptor of Romantic Realism, Pennsylvania, 1984
Catalogue des oeuvres d'Antoine-Louis Barye, membre de l'Institut, exhib. cat., École des beaux-arts, Paris, November 1875
Catalogue des oeuvres d'Antoine-Louis Barye, membre de l'Institut, exhib. cat., École des beaux-arts, Paris, May 1889
De Kay, C., Life and Works of Antoine-Louis Barye, Sculptor, New York, 1889
Grand Palais, Un âge d'or des arts décoratifs, 1814-1848, exhib. cat., Paris, 1991
Jean, R., L'Art français à Saint-Petersbourg, exposition centennale, exhib. commentary, Paris, 1912
Johnston, W. R., Nineteenth Century Art, from Romanticism to Art Nouveau, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, 2000
Leroy-Jay Lemaistre, I., La griffe et la dent, Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875), sculpteur animalier, exhib. cat., Paris, 1996
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Romantics to Rodin, French Nineteenth-Century Sculpture from North American Collections, exhib. cat., Los Angeles, 1980
Pivar, S., The Barye Bronzes, A Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, 1974
Poletti, M., Monsieur Barye, Lausanne, 2003
Poletti, M. & Richarme, A., Barye, Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Paris, 2000
Poletti, M. & Richarme, A., A. L. Barye, Artiste et Artisan, exhib. cat., Univers du Bronze, Paris, 1992
Saunier, C., Barye, Paris, 1925
Sladmore Gallery, Myth, Monument and Menagerie, the Sculpture of Antoine-Louis Barye, exhib. cat., London, 1990
Wasserman, J. L., Sculpture by Antoine-Louis Barye in the Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 1982
Wildenstein, The wild kingdom of Antoine-Louis Barye, 1795-1875, exhib. cat., New York, 1994
SELECTED SALES FEATURING COLLECTIONS OF BARYE BRONZES
Vente Atelier Barye, hôtel Drouot, Paris, 7-12 February 1876
Vente Hector Brame, hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 April 1884
Vente Auguste Sichel, hôtel Drouot, Paris, 27 February 1886
Vente Aimé Diot, hôtel Drouot, Paris, 8-9 March 1897
Vente Charles Guasco, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 11 June 1900
Vente George Lutz, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 26-27 May 1902
Vente Dr. Marchand, hôtel Drouot, Paris, 28 February 1912
Vente Antony Roux, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 10-12 May 1914
Vente Jacques Zoubaloff, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 10-11 December 1917
Vente Louis Sarlin, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 2 March 1918
Vente Jacques Zoubaloff, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 16-17 June 1927
Vente Jacques Zoubaloff, galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 30 May 1929
Vente Aimé Diot, hôtel Drouot, Paris, 17 June 1933