This striking sculpture has remained in the same private hands since 1964 and is part of a rare casting which was produced by Richier in 1946 using the surface effect of cleaned natural bronze to give the illusion of antique gold. Drawn from her mutant menagerie of insect-women, ogres and animals, this creature of the night ranks alongside Richier's La Grande Mante as one of the most threatening and haunting images in Post-War sculpture.
In fact La Chauve-Souris can be seen as a symbol of the human condition as forged by the tragedy and brutality of world conflict. Half-human, half-animal, both the violence of the perpetrator and the fear of the victim is represented in the fragile wing-span of a phantom bat.
Richier had always been fascinated by the natural world and saw in animals a vitality that had been sapped from humans by the fatigue of the war. She collected specimens as real-life models for her nightmarish fantasies. Elisabeth Lebovici describes her studio as "le musée des insectes naturalisés": "In a cupboard at the far end of the studio she found a skeleton of a bat with extended wings, a book on ants, scattered pebbles, fossified vegetation, an array of fragments of nature from the countryside." (in: Germaine Richier, Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul 1996, p. 70.)
Richier's unique interpretation of the natural world was combined with supreme technical ability, developed during her apprenticeship with the sculptor Bourdelle. She knew how to endow inherently heavy bronze with a shell-like, batwing delicacy. For this sculpture, she in fact developed a totally new working process. Georges Limbour describes the difficulty and originality of the technique: "The bat, with its laced, transparent and shredded wings, would be her first baroque sculpture. These bristling forms seemed to defy the founder, but in the end, it appeared possible to cast them in bronze." (ibid, p.70)
The corroded surface of these intricate wings, the tree-stump torso and hollow eye sockets, all combine to fill the viewer with horror as the bat hovers over head. However by making this golden version, Richier bestows classical grandeur and even beauty on a creature often considered repulsive. There is something stoic about the sculpture and it thus becomes an emblem of hope for a humanity wasted and degraded by fear.