PROPERTY OF A FOUNDATION
An interest in mythology, beauty, nature and human relationships informed the art created in the Rococo period in France. Honor, love and passion were at the heart of court culture. Small bronzes were invested with theatrically gesturing figures and graceful postures, all of which were also prevalent in contemporary theater and music. Rococo art also reflected a shift in ideology in which moral standards were relaxed and lighter subjects were emphasized.
With the discovery of the present bronze and its unique inscription on
the scroll, scholars have been able to identify the figures
that inhabit this composition. However, the full meaning of this allegory
remains a mystery, as Wenley explains in his cataloguing of the Wallace
bronze and of the present cast in the Louvre and Metropolitan Museum
of Art exhibition (op.cit.).
This grand sculpture captures the Rococo in its playfulness and rich allegorical subject matter. At the peak of this sculpture is Time flying with an hourglass in his hand; Vice emerges from his lair below; the central male figure representing Honor stands proudly wearing a laurel crown, and cornucopiae, gold chains and acclamatory scrolls spill out before him. Probity holds a triangle (for foursquare honesty) and shows indifference for symbols of wealth and war by her feet. Prudence holds the mirror of self-knowledge entwined with the snake of Wisdom (Wenley, op.cit., p.76).
The use of elaborate rockwork and theatrical figures in a tableau-like setting is comparable to bronzes attributed to François Lespingola of around 1690-1705 (see cat. nos. 80-83 in Bresc-Bautier et. al., 2009, op. cit.) and, as Wenley goes on to explain, to the work of René Frémin (1672-1744), such as his monumental lead fountain groups of the 1720s in La Granja Spain, and Philippe Bertrand.
Paintings of the period, like Antoine Coypel’s Time Discovering Truth, circa 1702, (fig. 2 for a print after the painting) may have provided a prototype for the allegory’s composition. The precise attribution for this bronze remains to be established, although it is clearly by a leading sculptor of the time. The animated figural types, careful modeling and finish celebrate the artistic liberation from the heavier Baroque designs and religious subject matter of the past to the lighter themes and compositions of the Rococo which were perfectly in tune with the aesthetic of Louis XV's reign.
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