GALLERIES/Stuart Lochhead Sculpture
1836 - 1914
Duke of Gramont Vase
120 × 75 cm. (47 × 29 ½ in.)
Signed on the base D'EPINAY
PROVENANCE:Studio of the artist
Gift of the artist to the Duke of Gallese in 1912.
P. Roux-Foujols, Prosper d’Epinay. Un sculpteur mauricien à la cour des princes, Ile Maurice, 1997 (?), p. 106-107
FURTHER INFORMATION:The Mauritian-born sculptor Prosper d'Epinay began his sculptural studies under the tutelage of the caricaturist Jean-Pierre Dantan in Paris. He moved to Rome in 1861 to join the studio of Luigi Amici and then opened a studio in the Via Sistina, which he kept until 1912. His work was very popular in England where he exhibited at the Royal Academy for many years, and his aristocratic patrons included Queen Victoria. He became a fashionable portraitist sought-after by aristocrats all over Europe, his work emulating the tradition of French eighteen-century portrait sculpture. His coquettish nude, the Golden Girdle earned him considerable praise at the 1874 Salon and several versions in marble, bronze and Sèvres biscuit were
made including one life-size marble for the Czar Alexander III of Russia (State Hermitage, St. Petersburg). By then a leading sculptor along with Carrier-Belleuse and Falguière, Prosper D'Epinay opened a second studio in 1878, this time in the Boulevard Haussman in Paris, and divided his time between Rome, London and Paris. In the 1880s he created a number of decorative objects including seven monumental urns. The present plaster is the original model of a vase that was commissioned to the artist by Agenor de Gramont (1851-1925), who became Duc de Gramont in 1880 upon the death of his father. Having married a Rothschild in his second marriage he built the château of Vallières near Paris in 1878 where the couple
held brilliant salons. The duke is the author of a famous phrase in the literary world - "Pas de pensée, Monsieur Proust" (No thoughts, please, M. Proust) - which he told Marcel Proust while presenting his guest book to the writer. While d'Epinay most likely executed the vase in marble or in bronze for the château de Vallières, the plaster model remained in his studio on Via Sistina in Rome until the artist's departure from the city in 1912. D'Epinay gave most of the models he had created in Rome to his friend the Duke of Gallese, who intended to establish a small museum to the artist's work in his villa of Gallese in Italy. However this project never came to fruition and the plaster models were later dispersed. Prosper d'Epinay is known to have created seven monumental urns: one in marble for the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the brother-in-law of the Duc de Gramont, around 1884 ; The Triumph of Bacchus, executed in bronze and shown at the 1888 Salon d'Art Français in Paris ; the Sappho Vase, once (1) in the Chauchard collection and now in the Musée Girodet in Montargis ; a Renaissance Vase, also in the Musée Girodet ; and the original plasters for The Bear Hunt, The Dolphin Vase, the Sappho Vase and the present vase, which all belonged to the Duke of Gallese. The Gramont vase is decorated with the allegorical figures of Winter and Summer. The rams' heads on each side of the urn, as well as its general shape, derive directly from vases created by Clodion. Indeed within the eclecticism of the late nineteen century a Rococo revival coexisted with the classicising tendencies of the Louis XVI style and the fashion for neo-Greek. Although not a stranger to these tendencies, D'Epinay would favour the Rococo period in his work.