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"Cheval Libre" (The Free Horse) | Pierre Jules Mêne

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French, 1810-1879

"Cheval Libre no. 1" (The Free Horse)

Sand-cast and patinated bronze | cast signature "P.J. MÊNE" | cast circa last quarter of the 19th century

Item # 212PNE15W 

Clearly cast from the early molds with surface texture captured directly from the wax and transferred to the bronze, it was likely cast during the Mêne-Cain period though perhaps slightly earlier. Note the early manner of construction in the base and see Koller Auction, Zurich, Switzerland December 5th of 2012 (lot 1874) for an identical base construction (almost certainly an atelier cast, achieved 10,400 CHF or approximately $ 9500 USD at the time of sale).

The model is listed in Mêne's catalogue as no. 39 and it is an individual portrait of the stallion from his most celebrated L'Accolade with some slight alterations to the horse's pose make the figure more appropriate as a stand-alone work.

The present example shows exquisite surface throughout and a delightful undercurrent of cross-hatched texture; the nuanced undertone of the light-brown chemical patina peers through the darker brown overall surface, both of these sealed under a lacquer or shellac with a final sealer of conservator grade wax over this. The result is a very well-preserved original patina with a brilliant translucent glow throughout. The underside construction shows two slotted machined screws and a single hand-cut bolt affixing the figure above to the naturalistic base.

For similar examples at auction, in addition to the model at Koller, see:

  • Christie's, New York, 8 December 2005, lot 52 [achieved $ 7,800 USD]
  • Christie's, London, 8 December 2007, lot 104 [achieved 8750 GBP, the 2.03 exchange rate at time of sale resulting in an approximate sale price of $ 17,700 USD]

Artist Listings & Bibliography:

  • Pierre Jules Mêne, Catalogue Raisonne, Poletti & Richarme, 2007, fig. CHE15, p. 73, ill. 65
  • The Animaliers: The Animal Sculptors of the 19th and 20th Centuries, James Mackay, 1973, p. 73-78
  • Les Animaliers, Jane Horswell, 1971, p. 164

Measurements: 12 3/8" H x 15 1/8" W x 6 1/2" D

Condition Report: Light patina wear to raised elements, overall the original patina is beautifully preserved and presents without notable flaw. Tip of the left ear shows evidence of reshaping at the extreme tip (note slightly flatter than the other ear at the tip) and associated patina touch-ups, beautifully executed and invisible to most but the trained eye. A very fine presentation.