THE COLLECTION
Les Chevaux de Marly
  • Guillaume I Coustou (1677 - 1746) , (model)
  • Attributed to Pierre-François Feuchère (1737 - 1823), Cast by
  • Les Chevaux de Marly
  • France
  • Date: c. 1800 - 1815 (casts)
    1740 - 1745 (model)
  • Object Type: Group
  • Medium: Bronze and gold, gilded. Lost-wax casts, cast in parts, sleeve-joined together. Each group bolted on base.
  • Height: Group, 59.8 cm
  • Width: Terrain base, 47.9 cm
  • Inv: S191
  • Location: Billiard Room
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Description
Provenance
Further Reading
  • These gilt-bronze groups are reductions of a pair of over-life-size marble sculptures made for Louis XIV: the Marly Horses by Guillaume I Coustou.

    With his brother Nicolas, Coustou began his artistic training in Paris under their uncle, the royal sculptor Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720). He then completed his training in Rome where he worked for Pierre Legros (1666-1719) whose style greatly influenced him. After his return to Paris in 1700 he began working with his uncle and immediately made a name for himself in the carving of brilliantly dynamic marbles. He became member of the Academy in 1704 and was later made a Professor (1706) and Rector in 1733. He was mostly employed by the bâtiments du roi but also produced important funerary monuments for private patrons. He continued to enjoy great success after Louis XIV’s death and in the 1730s was the most famous sculptor working for the court.

    Commissioned in 1739 to be displayed on the terrace of the horse-pond in the Park at the château de Marly, the two groups represented the wild forces of nature and were destined to replace two earlier groups by Coysevox, which in 1719 had been moved to the Tuileries. Under Napoleon, the Horses were installed at the head of the Champs Elisées in Paris in 1794 where they assumed a new meaning, celebrating "la gloire de la France" and becoming powerful symbols of France itself.

    Generally regarded among the greatest masterpieces of French eighteenth-century art, the Marly Horses were already replicated in small bronze groups during the eighteenth century. However, bronze reductions of these groups further multiplied after the Revolution and the relocation of the originals to the Champs Elisées. The famous founder Pierre-François Feuchère was involved in the production of gilded versions from at least as early as 1813, when he supplied a pair to the Würzburger Residenz (Bavaria, Germany). Our groups surely produce the lavish effect Feuchère himself described when suggesting the addition of gilding, although their facture and detail are not of particularly high quality. They were bought by the third Marquess and appear in his post-mortem inventory in 1842, listed as “ormolu ornaments”.