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Statuette - Ceres

Ceres

  • Object:

    Statuette

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1690-1710 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Anguier, Michel, born 1612 - died 1686 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bronze

  • Museum number:

    85-1865

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA9

This statuette of Ceres derives from a model that formed part of a set of six statuettes of gods and goddesses commissioned from Michel Anguier in 1652. In 1690, they were described by Guillet de Saint-Georges, the first historian of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, with the evocative titles of ‘a thundering Jupiter, a jealous Juno, an agitated Neptune, a tranquil Amphitrite, a melancholy Pluto, … and a weeping Ceres’. They were created as pairs to represent the elements of air (Jupiter and Juno), water (Neptune, for which see inv. no. A.206-1946, and Amphitrite) and earth (Pluto and Ceres), but lacking the fourth element of fire.

The crown of wheat around Ceres’ head signals that she is the goddess of Agriculture, and a symbol of fertility. She is shown here striding forward, holding out a torch as she searches for her daughter Proserpina, who Pluto had carried away into the underworld, an episode taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Ceres was often depicted in a chariot drawn by dragons, one of which is shown here, crouching at her feet. The earliest versions of this series of bronzes, possibly cast in the 1660s or 70s, incorporated hexagonal bases, while in later casts they were square. This version has a thinner polygonal base, but Ceres is shown bare-breasted, as in later versions.

Michel Anguier (1612/14-1686) was apprenticed to his father, Honoré, a woodworker in the French town of Eu, before moving to Paris to join the workshop of Simon Guillain in around 1629-33. He was one of a number of artists who moved to Rome, where he spent ten years from 1641, assisting the two leading (and rival) sculptors of the day, Gianlorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi. He received the commission for this series of gods and goddesses after returning to Paris in 1651. In his later years, Anguier lectured at the Académie Royale on a variety of subjects, notably including different expressions of anger (1675) and the depiction of gods through their temperaments (1676). He was not known as a maker of bronzes, and it is possible that he turned to a specialist foundry to assist with reproducing his models as his large-scale commissions declined. His lively bronzes were collected throughout the 18th century in France. This Ceres was bought from the Portalès sale in Paris in 1865, one of the finest collections sold in the 19th century, having belonged to James-Alexandre, count of Portalès-Gorgier (1776-1855).

Physical description

Statuette of a semi-clad figure of Ceres, goddess of Agriculture, with a dragon at her feet. She wears a crown of wheat on her head, and clutches her drapery in her left hand. In her outstretched right hand, she is holding a torch.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

1690-1710 (made)

Artist/maker

Anguier, Michel, born 1612 - died 1686 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Bronze

Dimensions

Weight: 18 kg, Height: 53.2 cm, Width: 31.5 cm, Depth: 31.5 cm Depth including extended arm, Width: 16.5 cm Base, Depth: 19.5 cm Base Maximum depth of base including small extended section at the back

Object history note

This object was purchased in 1865 for £280, from a sale at the Pourtalès Collection in Paris, where many Italian art objects were being sold as a result of their flooding the market after the Napolenic wars.

For the history of this series of bronzes by Michel Anguier see most recently Wardropper 2008 and 2009.

Descriptive line

Statuette, bronze, 'Weeping Ceres', after Michel Anguier, French, model about 1652, cast about 1690-1710

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1865. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 57
[Catalogue entry] Masters from the Louvre. Queensland Art Gallery, 1988, p. 22
[Catalogue entry] Europäische Barockplastik am Niederrhein, Düsseldorf: Kunstmuseum, 1971
Ian Wardropper, 'Michel Anguier. The Bronzes' in Geneviève Bresc-Bautier and Guilhem Scherf with James David Draper (eds), Cast in Bronze. French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution, exh. cat. Musée du Louvre, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2008-9, Paris, 2009, pp.204-5, with earlier literature, and for the catalogue entry for another version (Washington, National Gallery of Art), pp.210-11, no. 57 (Ian Wardropper).
Ian Wardropper, 'Michel Anguier. Les Bronzes' in Geneviève Bresc-Bautier and Guilhem Scherf (eds), Bronzes français de la Renaissance au Siècle des lumières, exh. cat. Musée du Louvre, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2008-9, Paris, 2008, pp.204-5, with earlier literature, and for the catalogue entry for another version (Washington, National Gallery of Art), pp.210-11, no. 57 (Ian Wardropper).
Warren, Jeremy, Beauty & Power: Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Peter Marino Collection, London, The Wallace Collection, 2010, exh. cat. pp. 155-156, fig. 3

Materials

Bronze

Techniques

Casting

Categories

Sculpture; Myths & Legends

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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