Of all the great sculptors of the second half of the 18th century, Claude Michel said Clodion is probably one of the best known and his name evokes in the minds of many an bacchanal in clay, a bas relief or a bronze cast saw in an auctioneer, a gallery, or at Drouot or in a museum.
Claude Michel said Clodion born in Nancy in 1738 the then capital of the duchy of Lorraine and spent his entire youth. In 1755, he left for Paris to entering apprenticeship in the studio of his maternal uncle the Baroque sculptor Lambert Sigisbert Adam (1700-1759). In 1759, Clodion integrates the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714-1785) where he learned the new style into force the transition from Rococo and Neoclassical styles.
In 1759, our young sculptor wins the grand prize for sculpture from the Academie Royal and in 1761 the first silver medal for his studies after models. In 1762, Clodion left for Rome where he shared a studio with the sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. Its activity will be significant between 1767 and 1771. Catherine II of Russia, a great art lover, tries to ensure his presence in St. Petersburg, but he prefers to return to Paris.
Among his many clients include the chapter of Rouen and the States of Languedoc. Clodion frequently exhibited at the Salon. In 1782, he married Catherine Flore, daughter of the sculptor Augustin Pajou, whom he later divorced.
Clodion, "L'offrande au Dieu", © Ader
There are two major periods in his work.
The first is influenced by Pigalle in which his sculptures often small and in clay are inspired by Greek mythology. He frequently represents fauns and satyrs sensuously hugging a Bacchante. This is the turning point between the Baroque and Neoclassicism. In these terracotta, the theme of Bacchus and the lasciviousness of the modeled bring us back to the Baroque, while the choice of subjects directly inspired by antiquity announces the emerging Neoclassicism.
These small sculptures in clay were prized by lovers of the time and are still sought. This explains their prices in auctions.
His second period was marked by the dominant neo-classical style from 1770. His sculptures may be distinguished by the ancient bas-reliefs; monumental sculptures in particular several monuments and above all a very important production for decorative arts. Thus, it provides bas reliefs for furniture by Riesener or Roentgen and clocks. It also provides models of high reliefs vestals, fauns and Bacchantes for chandeliers and candelabra.
D'après Clodion, Bacchanale, épreuve en bronze doré, Cabinet d'expertise Authenticité, © Art Valorem
Clodion died in Paris in 1814 in a certain forgetting to be rediscovered by the mid 19th century.
Clodion is certainly the sculptor who best symbolizes the grace of the art of the 18th century. Whether in these sculptures or bas reliefs for cabinetmakers, his style is inimitable.
We draw your attention to the fact that many sculptures "in the Bacchante" attributed to Clodion are fakes or copies of later date. From the late 19th century, a number of sculptures by the artist will be edited in bronze.
Cedric Henon, Continental Furniture specialist, valuation, appraisal, auction.
Main illustration: Clodion, groupe en terre cuite avec une nymphe, © Beaussant-Lefèvre