Lot 60
  • 60

Guillaume Geefs

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
131,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Guillaume Geefs
  • Le Lion Amoureux (The Lion in love)
  • signed: Gm Geefs.
  • white marble, on a veined light grey marble base
  • marble: 61 by 65cm., 24 by 25 5/8 in.
    base: 26 by 76 by 49cm., 10¼ by 39 7/8  by 19¼in.

Catalogue Note

When the Le lion amoureux, or The lion in love, was presented in the Crystal Palace at The Great Exhibition of 1851 it caused a furore. Prince Albert promptly gifted a version to Queen Victoria, Guillaume Geefs was handed a prize medal, and the catalogues that record the famous exhibition include full-page engravings of the charming group. The sculpture is based on Aesop’s tale about the King of the beasts claiming a farmer’s handsome daughter. She coaxes the amorous King into having his nails clipped. Subdued and defenceless the King is quickly vanquished by the people. The moral of the story, that gentle influence can overcome the greatest enemies, was joyfully received by the Victorians and the group became a major success. Successful appearances at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855 and the Exposition Générale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1857 further cemented Geefs’ international reputation.

Geefs trained in Antwerp, in Paris under Lorenzo Bartolini, and in Brussels before opening his own atelier in the latter city in 1836. Four years earlier he had already been appointed Royal Sculptor of Belgium. Aside from numerous portraits of the royal family, Geefs was therefore the recipient of many commissions for monuments in Belgium’s great cities. His performance at the important international exhibitions when Geefs was in his 50s attracted the patronage of the English and Prussian Royal families, among other foreign patrons, putting him in the top ranks of sculptors of the mid-19th century. The lion in love is among his most coveted models. The original marble is in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels (inv. no. 1392) and three smaller versions such as the present are recorded by Van Lennep (op.cit., p. 186). Bronze versions were cast as well.

E. Concanen, Gems of art from the Great Exhibition of 1851, London, 1852; L. Corbeaux, Sculpture from the Great Exhibition of “1851”, London, 1852, pl. 12; J. van Lennep (ed.), La sculpture Belge au 19e siècle, exh. cat. Le générale de banque, Brussels, 1990, 416; J. van Lennep, Catalogue de la sculpture. Artistes nés entre 1750 en 1882, cat. Koninklijke musea voor schone kunsten België, Gent, 1992, pp. 185-186; M. Marx and C. Engelen, Beeldhouwkunst in België vanaf 1830, Brussels, 2002, vol. II, pp. 762-763