Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dying Gladiator (1) by Pierre Julien

The theme of the dying gladiator, dying slave, dying Gaul has been sculpted by several major artists. We have seen previously the dying slave from Michel Angelo here. Today is a post about the Dying Gladiator sculpture by Pierre Julien, located in the Louvre museum.
Another post on that theme will follow with another sculptor.

Pierre Julien is a French sculptor born on 20 June 1731. He died on 17 December 1804.
He was an apprentice at an early age and then went to Paris to work under the supervision of Guillaume Coustou.

He was accepted at the French Academy in Rome (Italy), where he stayed several years. Coming back to France, he did some master pieces, such as the mausoleum of Louis (eldest son of King Louis XIV), in the Sens cathedral. He did his Ganymède (picture of that sculpture can be seen here in this blog), with the objective to be received at the Academie de peinture et de Sculpture, but failed (read more details below). He succeeded though, with this today's sculpture, the Dying Gladiator.
He was named one of the original members of the Institut de France and also Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur.

Valerie Montalbetti, from the Louvre Museum, describes very well this sculpture of the Dying Gladiator, and some key elements of his life.

"A crucial work for the artist : A mortally wounded gladiator, facing death with grace and dignity, is contemplating the laurel crown he was awarded for his courage. This was Pierre Julien’s second admission piece for the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and a crucial work for him. He had presented another piece for admission in 1776, a statue of Ganymede (Louvre) and had been refused, possibly due to his teacher, Guillaume II Coustou’s, lack of support for his too talented pupil.

Humiliated by this unjust failure, Julien had thought of becoming a naval sculptor but, encouraged by friends, persevered and presented Dying Gladiator to the Académie in 1778. He was admitted on 27 March 1779 and appointed an assistant teacher in 1781...  ''

''In this scholarly work, the artist demonstrated his mastery of academic criteria whilst asserting personal qualities. The statue is a proclamation of his knowledge of antique sculpture. He was reinterpreting the Dying Gladiator in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, a marble copy of which he had sculpted during his stay at the Académie de France in Rome from 1769 to 1772.

The pose of the legs seems to have been inspired by the famous antique sculpture The Knife Grinder in Florence, a marble copy of which was executed by the Italian Foggini in 1684 for Versailles (now in the Louvre). Julien’s nude gladiator demonstrates his complete mastery of anatomy, and also drapery at the rear of the statue. ''

Photo Ivan Lemeur

''But it was the sculptor’s personal contribution which imbues the work with its sensitivity: the elegant proportions, unctuous modelling and delicate execution (the finesse of the hands, laurel leaves and strands of hair), the marble’s perfect finish and the rendering of textures (the polish of the shield and sword suggest their metallic brilliance).''

''... Julien was exalting the heroism of a man overcoming his pain and stoically dying in silence. The balanced composition, dignified pose, discreet chest wound and restrained expression are formal echoes of this heroic serenity. Like the Laocoon, one of the most admired antique statues at that time, the gladiator is in agony but not crying out in pain, and it is this dignity in suffering which makes the figure more sensitive and inward-looking. ...”

Book about Pierre Julien by André PASCAL:

Wikipedia biography
Louvre Museum full text by Valerie Montalbetti