This sensual and ambitious nude representing a captured Amazon is one of only two known marble versions at this size, and particularly rare as being among the few larger-scale figurative marbles produced by Carrier-Belleuse in his extensive career.
Carrier-Belleuse was an innovator. Not only did he pioneer new treatments of traditional themes, and develop original methods and techniques for the production of sculpture in his large studio, but he was one of the first sculptors to organise public sales of his works at auction. These took place mainly at the Hôtel Drouot, but were staged also in Brussels and London. It has been suggested by June Hargrove (op. cit.) that Carrier created the model of the Amazone specifically for his 1868 Drouot sale, whose catalogue lists such a work in marble. Until recently, however, the model was known almost exclusively in bronze and terracotta. The present marble's fresh entry to the market follows the recent sale of another previously unknown marble version (Christie's London, 30 September 2015, lot 260) of approximately the same dimensions. However while the version at Christie's was merely signed A. CARRIER, the present marble is, in addition, dated to 1866, making this a significant rediscovery. The dating suggests not only that the model was completed at least two years prior to the 1868 Drouot sale, but that this is likely to be the first marble version of the Amazone captive that was executed by Carrier and his studio.
By representing an Amazon, one of the legendary female warriors from antiquity, as helpless and unclothed, chained to a tree and surrounded by what seem to be the remnants of her armour, Carrier-Belleuse arguably breaks new iconographic ground. Amazons are typically shown on horseback in battle, whereas artistic interpretations of the most famous representative of their kind, Penthesilea, tend to focus on her relationship with Achilles, as told in post-Homeric myth. Carrier's composition instead relates to representations of the mythological heroine Andromeda, who was chained to a rock and saved by Perseus from being eaten by a sea monster. The woman’s voluptuous nudity and her vulnerable, imploring, gaze form a stark contrast to the Amazons’ reputation as fierce fighters, lending a titillating eroticism to the composition. As Hargrove has noted, in this model Carrier 'transformed his eclectic sources into a thoroughly nineteenth-century configuration.' Hargrove further comments that the Amazone's pose may have been derived from Augustin Pajou’s Psyche of 1790, but that Carrier-Belleuse 'added a mannered lushness to Pajou’s idea.' The contorted arrangement of the Amazone’s body and the abundant braid of hair that falls onto her shoulder epitomise the luxuriance of Belle-Époque sensuality.
J. Hargrove, The Life and Work of Albert Carrier-Belleuse, New York/London, 1977, p. 233; J. Hargrove and G. Grandjean, Carrier-Belleuse: Le maître de Rodin, exh. cat., Palais de Compiègne, Paris, 2014