Picault produced a range of Egyptian figures during his career due to the popularity and success of these statues. He also utilized a variety of materials, patinas and figure compositions. Some are made entirely of bronze (see lot 101), whereas others like the present lot integrate materials like griotte rouge and incorporate grander designs for their bases and their tall staffs, allowing them to function as free-standing centerpieces. Another opulent example of Picault's polychrome statues of Egyptians was offered at Christie's in New York on 1 November 2001 as lot 86. In that piece, Picault also integrated semi-prescious stones such as lapus lazuli into his composition.
In all of Picault's designs for his Egyptian figures the previous generation's work on ancient Egypt is immediately noticeable. He has almost direct visual quotes from set and costume designs for the production of Aida by Pierre-Eugène Lacoste (fig. 1). In his molding of the staff, the head dress and the skirt of the figures, Picault is looking at Lacoste's designs closely. This is evident in that much of the integrated detail in both artists' work, however authentic it may look, is historically inaccurate. This trend is not exclusive to these two artists. From Clodion to Lucien-François Feuchère, all artists working in the late 18th and 19th Centuries have taken inspiration from Egypt and integrated this new aesthetic and imagery into their art. The famous ancient statue of Antinous in the Capitoline Museum has also been a source of inspiration for most artists looking back at Egypt. Clodion's teraccotta statue of Antinous-Osiris (fig. 2) is an early example of this synergy, and Picault's Egyptian figures also exhibit a striking similarity to the ancient statue.
Also see note to lot 101.
(fig. 1) Pierre-Eugène Lacoste, Pharaoh, costume design for the Paris opening of Aida at the Opéra de Paris, 1879, Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra, Paris.
(fig. 2) Claude Michel, called Clodion, Antinous-Osiris, circa 1775, Private Collection.