Sauvage excelled at the art of illusion and was unrivalled in his skill at imitating in paint the bas-relief sculptures of the great masters of the French School, especially works by Duquesnoy, Clodion, Pigalle and Sarrazin. Born in Tournai in 1744, Sauvage moved to Paris at an early age, and was received into the Académies of Toulouse and Lille, the Académie de Saint-Luc in Paris, and finally the Académie Royale in 1783. He exhibited regularly at the Salon and quickly established himself as the primary exponent of trompe l'oeil painting within France. In 1785 he was commissioned by the Prince de Condé to paint a number of overdoors and subsequently he received commissions to decorate the Royal Apartments at Fontainebleau, Versailles and Compiègne.
Sauvage's Triumph of Bacchus, is a particularly splendid example of his mastery of trompe l'oeil that displays the skill and ingenuity with which Sauvage could reproduce the patina and natural variations of bronze. It does not relate directly to a known sculpture, but it stylistically recalls the carved reliefs of his fellow countryman, the Flemish sculptor François Duquesnoy (1597-1643), in particular his Bacchanale of Children and Victory of Divine Love in Galleria Doria-Pamphili, Rome. Two unsigned studio copies of the present painting are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Inv. nos. 07.225.272 and 07.225.314a); both copies came from the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan, and are larger than the present work.
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