Style Empire / Ref.10841
Jean-François GECHTER (Att. to) - "Bonaparte crossing the Great Saint Bernard", important patinated bronze sculpture
Width: 20'' ⅞ 53cm
Height: 24'' ¾ 63cm
Depth: 9'' ⅞ 25cm
Circa 1840, France.
In very good condition.
This important patinated bronze sculpture, representing General Bonaparte crossing the Great-Saint-Bernard, is attributed to the romantic sculptor Théodore Gechter (1796-1844). The general is represented according to tradition, « calme on a fiery horse », although he had crossed the pass on a mule. The prancing animal confers a dynamism to the composition, which is reinforced by the grandiloquent gesture of Bonaparte draped in a loose cloak. The victorious general, with an idealized face, looks at the spectator and shows him the direction to follow, this third political way which he sought to impose between the royalists and the republicans .
This beautiful sculpture was executed after the famous painting by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). This representation commemorates the victorious passage, in May 1800, of the Great-Saint-Bernard pass by the reserve army under the direction of the First Consul, the first stage of his triumphal reconquest of Italy. With great audacity, Bonaparte played the surprise by crossing a pass, deemed impratical in the spring. He returned to the feat of great captains of the past : Hannibal, passing through the Alps with his elephants in 218 during the Second Punic War, and Charlemagne, in 773, in his fight against Lomabards. Even before the Napoleonic victories, Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, Wagram, the painting inscribed the name of Bonaparte among those of the greatest conquerors of History.
The composition of David, taken up by Théodore Gechter, is an absolute icon, archetype of the representation of the hero of the Revolution, probably the most famous portrait of Napoleon around the world. There are several bronzes edition of this model.
The representation of Gechter differs in several points from that of the painter J. L. David. General Bonaparte, realized by Gechter does not look at the spectator but at the ground. This rocky and eventful base underscores the obstacles that General Bonaparte has had to face and thus reinforces his heroic action. It should also be noted that Gechter did not go so far as to inscribe the names of victorious conquerors on the rock, as in the case of David’s painting.
We find the fiery movement of the characters in Charles Martel and Abdérame, King of the Saracens, plaster group presented by Gechter at the Salon of 1833.
A bronze model, commissionned by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, melted by Gonon is now preserved in the Louvre. The sculptor represents Charles Martel in armor slaying his enemy. The representation of the rider is a pretext for the study of the movement and contortions of the horse. The expression of the warriors pride and this victorious feeling is the sign of a romanticism peculiar of Gechter. The artist has taken great care with the modeling of theses faces, perfectly catching the light. The precision in rendering the details is obvious (the helmet, the crafted brigantine, the chainmails). In addition, Gechter alternates in his compositions rough surfaces, smooth or chiseled throughout the sculpture, precisely as in the Bonaparte crossing the Great-Saint-Bernard. The extraordinary quality of our sculpture, the composition in movement, the precision in the rendering of the details suggest that it is indeed a model of Gechter, executed around 1840.
This bronze sculpture is of high quality, by the delicacy of carving, the quality of the details and ornaments, the fiery movement, which are characteristic of Théodore Gechter, a romantic sculptor who particularly liked the modeling of horses.
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