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“Young Trapped Elephant”, sculpture | Emmanuel Fremiet (French, 1824-1910)

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Signed Fremiet in naturalistic base, inscribed "Coulé en cuivre de l'Ounyamouesi"; patinated copper
Item # 809SJH28L

The monumental life-size original of this work was sculpted in 1878 and is presently on display at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  This version is a reduction reworked by Fremiet for the retail market, which in light of its size has had removed the ground elements of twisting ropes and a monkey looking on in amusement.  It was commissioned by the Living Artists Acquisition Service in 1877, originally as a Buffalo to present on the terrace of the Trocadéro Palace but as Fremiet did not find the subject interesting he chose to instead sculpt the Young Elephant Trapped.  A sensitive and empathetic work, Fremiet does a marvelous job of capturing the youth’s immaturity and shock at having been hobbled by a crude slipknot trap.  The present example is inscribed along the corner (translation) “Cast in copper from the Ounyamouesi“.  It is an exquisite little sculpture with a translucent patina that simply glows and allows the golden-red hue of the metal to shine through brilliantly.

Fremiet benefited greatly from the patronage of Comte de Nieuwerkerke who held high cultural office as Surintendant des Beaux Arts under the reign of Napoleon III of the Second Empire.  Nieuwerkerke engaged Fremiet to redecorate the Louvre with stand-alone sculptural commissions as well as architectural sculpture for the building; he further commissioned Fremiet to complete the monumental original of “Pan et Oursons” in marble.  Fremiet worked hard to define himself not purely as an Animalier, working in an incredibly broad range of subjects and genres.  But his animal sculptures remain some of his most memorable and enjoyable, particularly the smaller bronzes of individual animals.


Measurements:  6 1/2 H x 5 3/4 W x 2 1/4 D

Literature and Further Reading:

  • "The Animaliers", James Mackay
  • “Bronze Sculpture of Les Animaliers”, Jane Horswell
  • "Art Bronzes", Michael Forest
  • "Animals in Bronze", Christopher Payne
  • "Bronzes of the Nineteenth Century: Dictionary of Bronze Sculptors", Pierre Kjellberg, p. 327-337

Condition Report:
Exceptional original condition, no flaws.