Barye's second and final mythological work, Thésée combattant le Centaure Biénor was inspired by the following passage from Book XII of Ovid's Metamorphoses:
Then leapt on tall Bianor's back (who bore
No mortal burden but his own, before);
Press'd with his knees his sides; the double man,
His speed with spurs increas'd, unwilling ran.
One hand the hero fastn'd on his locks;
His other ply'd him with repeated strokes.
The club rung round his ears, and batter'd brows;
He falls; and lashing up his heels, his rider throws.
(Translation by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al)
Barye depicts the young hero calmly pinning down the centaur's head, a motif borrowed from Giambologna's marble Hercules killing Nessus of 1594 (in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence), while he ready's himself to inflict the death blow. Bienor's agony is well conveyed by his spasmically extended foreleg and grimacing face.
The present lot is a cast of the sketch model (dating from 1846-8) for the final half-life-size version of Thésée combattant le centaure Biénor, conceived in 1849 and exhibited at the Salon the following year. In the finished work, the extended foreleg and tail of the centaur are retracted somewhat, whilst foliage is added to the remodelled rocky base. The sketch model was first offered in Barye's 1857-8 catalogue, although Poletti and Richarme think it likely a number of épreuves signed A. L. BARYE were cast in the early 1850s (an example of the latter, also from Eduardo Guinle's collection, was sold in these rooms, 25 May 1995, lot 153, $9,200). The model was edited posthumously by Barbedienne, but in far smaller numbers than the Salon version, of which, in addition to the original size, no less than four reductions were offered by the fondeur. Under the direction of the sculptor, Marqueste, Barbedienne also produced a three-metre cast of the model, which was to surmount the monument to Barye, designed by the architect, Stanislas Bernier, funded by American collectors, and erected on boulevard Henri IV on the île Saint-Louis, Paris, in 1894 (see above Bernier's sketch for the monument).
A comparable cast of this model, also signed BARYE, was sold Christie's Paris, Collection Charles-Otto Zieseniss, 6 December 2001, lot 50 (15,225 euros).