Lot 47
  • 47

François Pompon

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • François Pompon
  • Ours Blanc
  • inscribed Pompon
  • pierre de Lens
  • length: 46cm.
  • 18in.


Galerie Rulhmann, Paris (acquired in 1931)

Joachim Collection, France

Galerie Brame et Lorenceau, Paris (acquired from the above in January 1973)

Private Collection, France (acquired from the above in January 1973)

Sladmore Gallery, London (acquired from the above in 2010)

Acquired from the above by the late owners in 2010


Raymond Escholier, 'Au Salon D'Automne: La Peinture et la Sculpture', in Art et Décoration, December 1922, illustration of a larger example p. 21

Maurice Dufrène, Ensembles Mobiliers: Exposition Internationale 1925, 1re Série, Paris, 1925, illustration of another example pl. 26

Gaston Quénioux, Les Arts Décoratifs Modernes, Paris, 1925, illustration of another example p. 462

Edouard de Courières, François Pompon: Vingt-sept reproductions de sculptures, Paris, 1926, illustration of another example p. 49

Robert Rey, François Pompon, Paris, 1928, illustration of another example pl. 22

Victor Arwas, Art Deco, New York, 1980, illustration of another example p. 170

Florence Camard, Ruhlmann, Master of Art Deco, London, 1984, illustrations of another example pp. 92 & 247

Catherine Chevillot, Liliane Colas & Anne Pingeot, François Pompon, Paris, 1994, no. 122d, illustrations of other examples pp. 33, 54, 57, 60, 73, 81 & 188; pls. 1, 3, 44 & 52; pp. 211-212

Alastair Duncan, Encyclopedia of Art Deco, New York, 1988, illustration of another example p. 143

Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton & Ghislaine Wood, Art Deco 1910-1939, London, 2003, illustration of another example p. 149

Emmanuel Bréon & Rosalind Pepall (eds.), Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco, Paris, 2004, illustrations of another example pp. 19, 46, 93 & 300


Apart from some light surface dirt overall with a few isolated patches of handling dirt around the snout, the back and the belly and some very light abrasion to the snout, the proper left ear and the back of the bear, this work is in good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Ours Blanc is François Pompon’s most important and revered sculpture. It came to define the long career of an artist and animalier who, at the age of 67, first presented the monumental model of it to great acclaim at the 1922 Salon d’Automne in Paris. Thereafter, the Ours Blanc was executed in different materials and on various scales over a period of eleven years. Pompon spent much of his early career as a sought-after assistant to the finest sculptors in Paris, including Rodin and Camille Claudel. However, in common with other artists active in the early years of the twentieth century, Pompon reacted against the expressive modelling style that prevailed at the time to develop a purer, more essential form of sculpture epitomised by the present work.

The natural grace of the polar bear is evoked by the smooth and blemish-free surface of the stone which is underpinned by a subtle sense of movement. Constantin Brancusi was an admirer of Pompon’s and visited the sculptor at his studio in 1932, and his own representations of animals share the spiritual and aesthetic qualities of Pompon’s works. Emblematic of the creative spirit and artistic virtuosity of its creator, a bronze cast of the Ours Blanc’s head adorned the door of the sculptor’s atelier in Paris. In 1937, the city of Dijon erected a monumental sculpture of the polar bear in honour of Pompon, who had once worked and studied there. A monumental version, measuring just over two metres, is one of the highlights of the Musée d’Orsay’s collection of twentieth century art. Numerous versions belong to museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Middelheim Museum, Antwerp.