Barye based the figure of Theseus on a drawing by Henry Fuseli of an executioner which was taken in turn from a fresco of the Beheading of John the Baptist by Andrea del Sarto in the Monastero dello Scalzo, Florence. Further inspiration comes from a sheet of drawings of boxers by Géricault. The strictly archaic Greek Theseus, his hair stylised and linear and legs planted firmly apart, makes a composed combatant for the more romantically conceived minotaur. The contrast subtly underlines the triumph of good over evil. Ballu considered the model 'one of Barye's most masterful works and certainly one of the masterpieces of French sculpture'.
The present model is a particularly fine cast from Barye's own workshop.
R. Ballu, L'Oeuvre de Barye, Paris, 1890, p.91; G. Benge, Antoine-Louis Barye, Sculptor of Romantic Realism, Pennsylvania, 1984, pp.116-118; M. Poletti & A. Richarme, Barye: Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Paris, 2000, nos. F31-F32, pp.106-108
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