The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Attributed to Barthélemy Prieur (c. 1536 - 1611)
  • Acrobat
  • Paris, France
  • c. 1600
  • Statuette
  • Copper alloy, lost-wax cast with reddish-gold varnish. Verde Antico marble socle.
  • Statuette, Height: 29.2 cm
    Socle, Height: 10.1 cm
  • S91
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The subject seems to have been unprecedented in sculpture although it might reflect knowledge of a painting of 1541-44 by Primaticcio (1504-1570), a North Italian artist working in France at the time. The painting is now lost and only known through a preparatory drawing in the Louvre, but the figure of a young man, one of the dancing priests (acrobatoi) of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, depicted standing on his hands in the background, is extremely close to our bronze.

    The current attribution to Barthélemy Prieur (c.1536-1611) is based on stylistic affinity with other works once attributed to the Master of the Genre figures (see S128-30) and now universally acknowledged as belonging to the French sculptor. The reddish patina found on almost all the surviving casts also points towards a French origin. Even before Prieur became solidly established as the author for these figures, the Acrobat had been closely linked to another statuette also in our collection, the Youth (S74), due to the peculiar anatomy of the slender bodies and the smooth finish of the modelling. The characteristic anatomy of these figures is also shared by another model, of which a cast is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, representing a Standing Man carrying a Child on his Shoulder.

    The figure of the Acrobat can probably be identified with a bronze statuette listed in the 1700 inventory of Louis XIV’s garden designer Andre Le Nôtre where numerous other models now attributed to Prieur also appeared. It was possibly Sir Richard Wallace’s last ever purchase, in 1888.