Details & Cataloguing

19th and 20th Century Sculpture


Isidore-Jules Bonheur
signed: I. BONHEUR 
bronze, dark brown patina, on a veined green marble and wood base and a bronze veneer and wood plinth
bronze: 94.5 by 109cm., 37¼ by 42 7/8 in.
marble base: 4 by 76cm., 1½ by 29 7/8 in.
plinth: 83.5 by 79cm., 32 7/8  by 31 1/8 in.
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Sotheby's London, 9 April 2003, lot 126

Catalogue Note

The name Isidore-Jules Bonheur is synonymous with the great animalier school of sculptors of the late 19th century, alongside Antoine-Louis Barye and Pierre-Jules Mêne. His elder sister Rosa (1822-1899), was equally well-known, both for her bronzes as well as her paintings, notably The Horse Fair in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Of great significance to their sculpting careers, their young sister, Juliette (1830-1891), married the bronze founder Hippolyte Peyrol. Peyrol was a master caster and his foundry in Paris is rightly considered one of the finest of the period. He cast the best works by both Isidore and Rosa and these always bear the tiny PEYROLstamp, as can be found on the present work.

Amongst Bonheur’s wide variety of animal sculptures exhibited at the Salon, there were a number of mounted equestrian models, including three designs of jockey’s on horseback shown in 1864, 1879 and 1886. The most famous of these is Le Grand Jockey, of which the present cast is a rare, large and fine example. It shows a victorious jockey patting his horse on the neck in congratulation. First exhibited at the 1879 Salon in bronze, under the title ‘Un Jockey’, it was displayed alongside another equestrian group, Un cavalier, époque de Louis XV (nos. 4817 and 4816 respectively). The Salon entries reveal that at this time his atelier was ‘Chez M. Peyrol, rue de Crussol, 14’. Four years later, Bonheur and Peyrol had evidently realised the commercial potential of these models, for Bonheur exhibited them again at the Exposition Nationale des Beaux Arts of 1883 (nos. 893 and 894) and for a third time at the Exposition Universelle of 1889, when he was awarded the prestigious Medaille d’Or.

Variations on the theme of the Jockey include models in which the rider twists sideways looking behind the horse over his shoulder (Retour au Pesage), another shown jumping a hedge and others shown trotting, or where the rider looks straight ahead. They were all edited by Peyrol and were popular with the racing fraternity on both sides of the channel, for both Isidore and Rosa exhibited for a time at the Royal Academy.

Casts of Le Grand Jockey were edited in four different sizes and it is rare to find examples of this, the largest size, at 95cm. The details of the model are well chased throughout, as can be seen by closely inspecting the acutely observed individual veins, tendons and muscles as well as the rider’s jacket and the horse’s mane.

S. Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école française du XIXe siècle, vol. 1, Paris, 1916, pp.127-130; J. Horswell, Les Animaliers, Woodbridge, 1971, p. 209; M. Forrest, Art Bronzes, Pennsylvania, 1988, p. 227

19th and 20th Century Sculpture