Barrias exhibited his Premières Funérailles for the first time in plaster at the Salon of 1878. The model was very well received. It earnt the sculptor a Medal of Honour and probably had an influence on Barrias being made a member of the prestigious Légion d'Honneur the same year. It was exhibited as a life-size marble in 1883 and again at the Exposition Universelle in 1889. The critic Roger Ballu pronounced it 'the highest manifestation of the sentiments that sculpture can express.' The marble was purchased by the City of Paris and was placed in the vestibule of the Henri II staircase at the Hôtel de Ville before being moved to the Petit Palais. This fine reduction was carved by the artist for Monsieur Marmontel in 1886.
Les Premières Funérailles depicts Adam and Eve carrying the body of their murdered son Abel to his final resting place. It is one of the most moving conceptions in nineteenth century sculpture. Barrias powerfully translates the emotions of the two parents into stone. Adam stoically bears his son's body, his stern expression the only outlet for his grief, while Eve stoops to caress her son, kissing him and supporting his head with a tender hand, her fingers through his locks of hair. The limp body hangs between the parents, both drawn together and isolated in their grief.
P. Fusco & H. Janson, The Romantics to Rodin, ex. cat. Los Angeles County Musuem of Art, Los Angeles, 1980, no. 6, pp. 115-120
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