Lot 37
  • 37

Barthélemy Prieur, 1536 - 1611

200,000 - 300,000 EUR
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  • Barthélemy Prieur
  • Henry IV on horseback, circa 1603
  • bronze, warm brown patina ; on a circular tinted wooden base
  • 21 x 18 cm; 8 1/4  by 7 in.


French private collection, for at least two generations.


G. Bresc-Bautier, G. Scherf, Bronzes français de la Renaissance au Siècle des lumières, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, 2008-2009, pp. 124-125, n°22.

Catalogue Note

This bronze of Henri IV on Horseback is one of the most beautiful models made by Prieur for the King. Only five examples are listed in the inventory after the sculptor's death and the present bronze could be one of these. The King, dressed in armour, holding a sword in his right hand, rides on to the battlefield. The ground is strewn with spears and arrows abandoned by his enemies. Two fallen soldiers, their bodies entangled, are trampled by Henry’s horse as they strain desperately to escape. One struggles to get up as he attempts to shield himself from the King's sword ready to strike the final blow.

A description of the King's Cabinet in the Louvre in 1603 mentions a gilt bronze of the same subject decorating the central niche. A second, more detailed, description indicates that the equestrian group was framed by eight small columns and topped by two angels holding an escutcheon with the royal coat of arms. Two trophies and four other bronzes, also supposedly by Prieur, were developed to complete this ambitious iconographic project for the glory of the triumphant Henri IV. Later notes indicate that this cabinet was subsequently emptied of its bronzes. Around 1700, the inventory after Le Nôtre's death lists under no. 346 a bronze of this model, perhaps the same one that appeared in the cabinet's central niche. 'Another bronze figure representing Henri IV on horseback overcoming his enemies, on giltwood pedestal, valued at 100 livres'. (G. Bresc-Bautier, G. Scherf, op.cit.p.125).

A version of this bronze is on display at the Château de Pau (fig. 1), another at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, a third at the Herzog Anton-Ulrich Museum in Brunswick, and finally, one formerly from the French royal collections, in the V&A, London (A.42-1956). Prieur was an outstanding sculptor, and the bronze presented here is one of his masterpieces, which counts amongst the few complete three figure versions known today. The bronze is exceptional for the quality of its casting, very crisp in every detail, which is one of Prieur's specialties. The detailed finishing and exquisite chiseling makes this bronze a work worthy to find its place in a princely Cabinet.

R. Seelig-Teuwen, 'Barthélemy Prieur, portraitiste d'Henri IV et de Marie de Médicis', Avenement d'Henri IV. Quatrième Centenaire, Colloque V, Fontainebleau, 1990, Pau 1992, p. 331-354.