Lot 58
  • 58

Charles Despiau

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Charles Despiau
  • Le Faune (The Faun)
  • signed: C. Despiau stamped: C. VALSUANI / CIRE / PERDUE and numbered: 2/6
  • bronze, black patina
  • 98cm., 38½in.


private collection, Paris, France, until 2005;
Tajan, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 16 November 2006, lot 30


E. Lebon, Charles Despiau (1874-1946), cat. res., PhD Dissertation, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, 1995

Catalogue Note

This very rare half life-size bronze Faune is cast after a model first conceived by Charles Despiau, one of Rodin's most talented disciples, in 1912. It's graceful, classicising, composition strongly recalls the the celebrated Apollo Sauroctonus (The Lizard Killer) in the Musée du Louvre. This Roman copy of a model by Praxiteles enshrines the conflicting notions of idealised beauty (Apollo) and brutality (the act of killing a lizard). Despiau's elegant Faune retains the same sense of languid mischievousness as he leans against a tree and turns his head to watch an unseen spectacle.

Unusually, the original plaster model was never exhibited or cast as a bronze edition in the artist's lifetime, remaining in his studio. It was only in 1953 that Despiau's wife authorised casts to be made, stipulating that the edition must be limited to just five, although the bronzes made were, in fact, numbered as being of '6'. According to Élisabeth Lebon, however, only two casts can be attested ('1' and '2' of '6', with the present cast being the latter), both bearing the C. Valsuani caché. Number 1 was formerly in the private collection of Mme Despiau (by 1957) and was subsequently sold at Tajan, Paris, on 19 March 1973. The present bronze is listed in the 1995 catalogue raisonné as being in a Paris private collection and, according to Lebon, would have been cast from a mould taken from the original plaster by the Valsuani foundry. A third cast was produced by the Susse foundry in 1978 for the Musée Municipal de Mont-de-Marsan (today the Musée Despiau-Wlérick; inv. no. MM34).

Charles Despiau was one of the leading lights of French early 20th-century sculpture. A student of Barrias and an assistant of Rodin, he developed a distinctive classicising style, similar to that of his contemporary, Aristide Maillol. Large figurative compositions such as the present Faune are relatively rare within Despiau's oeuvre since much of his time was occupied with creating his portrait busts, which were in high demand.

Charles Albert Despiau 1874-1946, exh. cat. Musée Municipal de Mont-de-Marsan, Mont-de-Marsan, 1975, p. 22, no. 12; C. Judrin (ed.), Charles Despiau, sculptures et dessins, exh. cat. Musée Rodin, Paris, 1974, p. 23, no. 23

The Museum Europeu d'Art Modern, Barcelona (MEAM)

The Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (European Museum of Modern Art) is one of Barcelona’s hidden gems, situated in an elegant 18th-century palace in the heart of the city’s old town, El Born. Founded for the promotion of 20th and 21st-century figurative sculpture and painting, the museum houses an outstanding and growing collection of contemporary art. Each year it hosts the Figurativas Painting and Sculpture Awards, which brings together representations of the human form by contemporary artists from across the globe.

The following lots are a carefully curated selection of highlights from the Museum’s collection of 19thand 20th-century sculpture. It begins with a series of elegant classicising and Romantic marbles, led by Émmanuel Hannaux’s magisterial Le poète et la sirène (lot 34). These works evidence the belle époque fascination with the idealised human form, combined with wistful and exotic subjects. Affortunato Gori’s sumptuous Oriental Dancer (lot 37) highlights the fin de siècle taste for Orientalist subjects, reflecting major literary works from the time, notably Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1906). Historicism is represented in the very rare and dramatic original terracotta Monument to Beethoven by Théodore Rivière (lot 48).

The divergent movement towards a modernist aesthetic is witnessed in George Minne’s beautifully carved Le petit blesse II (lot 59) which represents the Symbolist desire to depict inner emotions in plastic form. Several works within the sale were created by artists like Minne, who were heavily influenced or trained by Auguste Rodin. The most striking of these is Louis Dejean’s column of swirling and twisting bodies (lot 82), which recalls Rodin’s Gates of Hell. A more classicising modernist aesthetic is seen in Fritz Klimsch’s elegant rendering of Frühling (Spring) (lot 63). This is complemented by Raymond Delamarre’s strong Art Deco David (lot 55), and his totemic torso LaBolognaise (lot 70). However, perhaps the most beautiful of the Art Deco sculptures is the Nude Girl by Jaume Otero i Camps (lot 40), a Catalan artist with native resonances for MEAM. Charles Despiau’s Le Faune (lot 58), seen on the cover of the catalogue, displays a softer classicism in line with the work of Aristide Maillol. Portraiture is represented by François Pompon’s charming Bust of André Leproust, and Jan and Joël Martel’s extraordinary clean-cut image of Professor Henri Vignes.

Each of the works in the catalogue were exhibited in Una mica d’escultura, si us plau! L’escultura europea del segle XX at MEAM, a dedicated exhibition of the Museum’s collection of European 19thand 20th-century sculpture.