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"Lion du Zodiaque" (Lion of the July Column) | Antoine Louis Barye

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Patinated bronze on walnut plaque | Signed "BARYE", cold-tooled verso "43"

Item # 107GWK14D 

This fine bas-relief sculpture of Lion de la Colonne de Juillet (Lion du Zodiaque) portrays the astrological sign Leo as a prowling and ferocious lion with a mane that engulfs his head and neck, walking a fine line along a narrow ledge while opening his mouth like one about to emit a growl. He is set against the equatorial band of the sun's path as it makes its way through the various illuminations of the zodiac.

Barye was employed by the architect Jean-Louis Duc to model this bronze lion for the western side of the July Column. Erected in the Place de la Bastille in Paris, the monumental structure commemorated the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and the 504 lives lost in the insurrection.

Influence for the model is perhaps somewhat owed to Visconti's "Walking Lion" held at the Musée Pie-Clémentin, a more romantic anthropomorphic modeling of this powerful beast. Glenn Benge observed that the lion was likely based on the engraving by Pietro Santo Bartoli (1635-1700) of a Roman Tomb near Tivoli (See Untamed, p. 150). His famous model of Lion Marchant is clearly a development of the present model.

A slightly smaller version of the same model is held in the permanent collection of the Walters Art Gallery and a few variations were developed by Barye, including insetting the relief within a raised rim.

The present cast does not have any foundry markings, but is almost certainly cast by the foundry of F. Barbedienne posthumously circa 1890. This is suggested by the cold-tooling ("44" and "H") to the reverse that closely matches the script style of foundry notations frequently made by Barbedienne during the period; further, the model illustrated in Poletti & Richarme's volume (fig. 366) cast by F. Barbedienne features the exact same wooden plaque with an identical cove molding profile to the shelf. And finally, Barbedienne's 1893 catalogue of Barye's work features "Lion de la Colonne de Juillet, No 1." (see Pivar, p. 299) with the identical slightly enlarged dimensions as the present model, at that time being offered for 250 francs.

The present model was sand-cast hollow in one piece with applied vertical mounting bars verso. Finished in a complex overall dark-brown surface patina, the model shows a fine underlayer of vibrant green with warmer hints of golden-brown showing through in the rubbed highlights. It is signed in the lower right corner "BARYE".

Artist Listings & Bibliography:

  • Barye: Catalogue Raisonné des Sculptures, Poletti & Richarme, 2000, p. 357 (cat. a 218), fig. 364-366
  • Untamed: The Art of Antoine-Louis Barye, Johnston & Kelly, 2006, p. 150-151 (cat. 52)
  • The Barye Bronzes: A Catalogue Raisonne, Pivar, 1974, p. 260 (cat. R7), p. 60
  • Antoine-Louis Barye: Sculptor of Romantic Realism, Benge, 1984, f. 25, see p. 37-42 for a lengthy discussion of the work

Measurements: 14 1/2" H x 22 3/4" W x 3 1/4" D [total]; 10 1/2" H x 21 11/16" W x 2 1/8" D

Condition Report:
Very fine original condition; walnut plaque refinished in the 20th century with only minor handling wear; vertical bars to reverse of bas-relief poorly reaffixed at one point, though they remain stable and do not need to be addressed.