PIERRE MARIUS MONTAGNE
"Mercure s'apprêtant à trancher la tête d'Argus" (Mercury Preparing to Decapitate Argus) (1867)
Patinated bronze | signed in cast "M. MONTAGNE"
Item # 302KJT02Z
An exceedingly fine casting of Mercury Preparing to Decapitate Argus cast after the model by Pierre Marius Montagne, it is most commonly called simply "Seated Mercury", a title that loses all of the implied violence and context of the pensive young man. The model was conceived in 1867 and exhibited under the full title of Mercure s'apprêtant à trancher la tête d'Argus at the Salon the same year in plaster as no. 2394 and at the Exposition Universelle of 1867 (no. 232). It was acquired for 3000 francs by the French Government in June of 1867 and an example was then commissioned in marble by the Minister of the House of the Emporer and the Fine Arts in August of 1868 for 5000 francs paid the following year. This statue was exhibited at the Salon of 1869 (no 3601) and the Exposition Universelle of 1878 (no 1359). It features an all-over hammered surface that accentuates the skin with inordinately exquisite texturing. The casting is above reproach with crisp details that are finished with a rich dark-brown patina punctuated by a ruby undertone that comes through the intentionally relieved surface.
Derived from Ovid's Metamophoses, the myth revolves around the paramour of Jupiter, the young woman Io that he seduced and transformed into a white heifer in order to protect her from his jealous wife, Juno. When she learned of this, Juno commanded the giant Argus of the Peloponnesian city of Argos, a price who had one hundred eyes, to stand guard over her. It was a task he was perfectly suited for with fifty eyes that remained open and alert at any given moment. Jupiter sends Mercury to assassinate Argus and free the young Io, first by lulling the watchman to sleep with the sound of his woodwind flute before decapitating him. It is betwixt the two moments we find the context for the present sculpture. The young man Mercury sits on a tree stump with his woodwind flutes in one hand while the other hand rests loosely over his sword, playing gently with the hilt as his eyes are intense, fixed on the sleeping Argus. He is calm, relaxed and entirely lost in the mental preparation for the act of violence before him
PIERRE MARIUS MONTAGNE
Born in Toulon on September 4th of 1828, Pierre Marius Montagne spent many years in his hometown studying in the sculpture workshops of the naval dockyard at the Port of Toulon before traveling to Paris. There he studied under François Rude and made his debut at the Salon from 1850. He continued exhibiting there through 1875, winning medals in 1867 and 1869. He is best known for the decorative sculpture he was commissioned to carve for the Grand Theatre, Toulon. Casts of the models for the six statues in the theatre are now in the Toulon Museum. He died in Toulon on January 11th of 1879.
Artist Listings & Bibliography:
- The Dictionary of Western Sculptors in Bronze, James Mackay, 1977, p. 268
- E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. IX, Gründ, 2006, p. 1197-1198
- Dictionnnaire des Sculpteurs de l'École Française, vol. III, Stanislas Lami, 1919, p. 470-473
Measurements: 17" H x 7 3/4" D x 8 1/2" W
Original surface patina in very good overall condition, cleaned and sealed in a new conservator grade wax. Light patina wear including two tiny lines on his proper left shoulder, some light abrading to his mid-back including a faint horiontal line, very faint rubbing to an outstretched finger and edge of wrist (proper right hand). A very fine cast and a very fine presentation.