"Chasse au Renard" (The Fox Hunt)
Sand-cast patinated bronze | signed in cast "P.J. MÊNE 1849" | an atelier cast circa 1860
Item # 311ZDQ28W
The group Chasse au Renard was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1849 (no. 2281) executed in wax and was the fifth such "Hunt" scene offered by Mêne by 1849, his first being released in 1844 and last in 1850. While he never separated the dogs from this model for individual modeling, the fox was initially positioned in a pleasant trot, first as part of Famille de Renards (1847, exhibited 1848 no. 4854) and again as a stand-alone figure titled Renard Guele Ouverte (The Panting Fox). Both were modeled prior to the present and much larger grouping, where the same foot positioning and overall posture are only subtly reworked to shift the fox into a state of defense. Mêne exhibited the hunting group at Salon again in 1863, this time executed in bronze as no. 2478 under the title of Hallali du Renard with a silvered patina.
This large and complex group captures a moment of ferocious battle underway as the hounds have apparently cornered the fox in this sunken hollow, each coming at it from a different angle while the fox is backed into the dead oak tree.
True to form, Mêne spared no expense in developing even the smallest details - note the exquisite form of each leaf on the ground with individual veins and texture fully articulated in even these secondary elements. The figures are shown inordinate care and attention with needle-like sharpness of all teeth, fine fur development in the paws and ears and the individuality of each dog brought to the forefront in their features. The front edge of the model is signed in a deeply impressed script captured directly from the mold "P.J. MÊNE 1849". The sculpture is finished in a dark brown and black surface patina relieved back to reveal warmer brown undertones; these positively glow from under the wax layer.
In describing this group, Poletti and Richarme note that other than Grande Chasse au Cerf no. 1 (1853), this is the rarest of the chase groups.
The present example is particularly interesting in its construction, which we interpret as being a quite early in the production sequence, a rendition of the group before a method was sufficiently worked out for efficient production of the base. There is a nervousness and almost experimental approach in the construction, which developes in later models to being more concise. In later casts (and also evident in the other two models our gallery has handled in the past), the base is sand-cast in a single piece with the trunk bolted on and all other elements attached with screws. The present example features the base cast in two hemispheres with a trace weld joint down the center and bronze strapping and screws set into the bronze to secure the joint. We have not handled enough other well-documented examples to state with certainty that the rudementary base casting method is earlier than most models, but it is highly likely.
Cast in Mêne's personal atelier, this incredibly complex and brilliant group is a finely preserved and scarce model, a treasure rarely found on the open market.
Artist Listings & Bibliography:
- Pierre Jules Mêne, Catalogue Raisonné, Poletti & Richarme, 2007, p. 52
- Animals in Bronze, Christopher Payne, p. 205 (present model pictured and discussed)
- Dictionaire des Sculpteurs de l'École Française, Vol. III, Lami, p. 427-430
Measurements: 19 3/8" W x 11" H x 10 3/8" D (base)
Very fine condition throughout. Tiny holes in several paws where the pins have recessed. Apparently original patina. Some light wear and discoloration around the edges of the base rim on all sides. Carefully cleaned in-house and sealed in conservator's grade wax. A brilliant presentation.