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"Oedipe et la Sphinx" (1869) | Pierre-Eugène-Emile Hébert

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Cast by Georges Servant foundry, signed and sealed to base; circa 1870
Item # 103SLN05D 

The modeling of this cast is particularly interesting, with the model somewhat unclear as to whether he is lifting the covering to reveal the Sphinx or is lowering the fabric to hide her away. Hébert's chosen proportions suggest she is being hidden, being put away. The ferocious adversary of the Thebes is nearly reduced to a household pet in dimension; she is rigid and static, modeled like a statue rather than as a living being while Oedipus is a vibrant image of life. It is prophetic as Oedipus lowers the fabric over the eyes of Sphinx of the self-inflicted blindness awaiting him.

An exceedingly fine cast by the foundry of Georges Servant, the figural group is finished in an overall dark brown surface patination with hints of warmer golden browns and red oxide below the surface. Conceived in 1869, this cast was executed subsequently by Servant and is sealed on the base "G&S / Medaille D'Or / 1867". Note the exquisite treatment of the surface with intricate chiseling, filing and textured hammering throughout.

Georges Servant exhibited extensively, including at the 1855 Paris Exhibition and the London Exhibitions of 1862 and 1867, winning in the latter the gold medallion referenced in the markings of his work. While Hébert worked with numerous foundries throughout his career, his partnership with Servant was apparently the most productive and long-standing, having a significant portion of his output produced in the Servant foundry both as serial casts and as models to surmount clocks. They also partnered together for somewhat limited production of bronze sculpture to decorate furnishings.

Pierre-Eugéne-Emile Hebert was born in Paris in 1828 and studied under his father, a well regarded sculptor Pierre Hebert, and under Jean-Jacques Feuchére. At the age of 18 he debuted at Salon, where he continued to exhibit almost every year continuously until his death in 1893, also completing some commissioned public works. He is particularly known for Comedy and Drama, stone groups at the Théatre du Vaudeville and his group The Oracle (now at the museum in Vienna). His works are held in museums and institutions throughout the United States and Great Britain.

In its summary of Hébert, the National Gallery of Art notes that “Hébert often adjusted his style to historical subject: severe neo-Greek handling in his Thetis, Oracle, and Oedipus and the Sphinx; and stylized and rigid neo-Egyptian handling in his busts of Rameses and Isis. Some of his most intriguing work is in this historicizing mode, which provides especially useful insights into nineteenth-century French Orientalism.”

Measurements: 21 1/2" H x 9 7/8" W x 6 1/8" D

Condition Report:
Exquisite original condition. Very minor handling wear to patina. Professionally cleaned, polished and sealed with beeswax; ready to place.