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Jules Moigniez (French, 1835-1894)

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French “Animalier” sculptor Jules Moigniez was born at Senlis, Oise, France on the 28th of May in 1835. His father, a metal gilder, bought a foundry in 1857 in which to cast his son’s sculptures, giving him a significant advantage over his peers both in terms of cost and control. The quality of the work from this foundry is widely acknowledged as being superior in quality and patination. The breadth of patination and their willingness to experiment is evident in their work, including multi-tone chemical patinas, silvered-bronze, gilded patinas as well as the use of very light translucent bronze hues that are particularly unforgiving of foundry flaws.  Most works were cast using the lost-wax method and are always chiseled and chased with great skill.

It is perhaps in light of this total control over production that his works have been criticized as being “overly chiseled” and as being complicated with excessive amounts of detail. This is particularly so with his bird subjects, often complete with a variety of extensive foliage in the base.

His passion for studies of birds resulted in some of the finest and most highly developed models of the 19th century, a lifelong interest that was likely born of his study under Paul Comoléra. There are great similarities between the models of the two sculptors, particularly in the handling of feathers and feet; these are exquisitely rendered by both sculptors, with the models by Jules being a development on the earlier work of his tutor.

His first debut was at the age of twenty at the Exposition Universelle in Paris with a plaster model of a Pointer Seizing a Pheasant (1855). He ultimately would exhibit thirty models at Salon between 1859 through 1892 and received a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1862. English and American collectors were particularly interested in his work and many of his game bird subjects were purchased by audiences outside of France, aided at least in part by presenting selected works at the London International Exhibition of 1862.  These were important markets for him as an artist; by some estimates more than half of his lifetime production was acquired by collectors in England and Scotland.

Around 1869, Jules Moigniez was stricken with an illness that he would never recover from, ceasing around that time to produce any new models. He tragically took his own life on May 29th of 1894 at the young age of fifty-nine. He was survived by his father, who continued to cast his work personally until his death, after which the foundry and all of the original plasters were acquired by the foundry of Auguste Gouge. These were cast until tastes changed at the time of the First World War.

References and Literature:

  • The Animaliers, James Mackay, p. 78 (biographical details), p. 151 (list of known works and some sizes)
  • Bronzes of the Nineteenth Century: Dictionary of Sculptors, Pierre Kjellberg, p. 495-501
  • Bronze Sculptures of Les Animaliers, Jane Horswell, p. 217-48
  • Dictionnaire de Sculpteurs de l'école Francaise, Stanislas Lami
  • Animals in Bronze, Christopher Payne