A bust of Dumas by Fauginet offered by the Friends of the Louvre

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21/3/23 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée du Louvre - The first Talabardon & Gautier sale, at Ader, Hôtel Drouot, went well this afternoon, with very few unsold items and many museum preemptions. We will be talking about this in the next few days, and we will start, with the one that the Louvre was able to make with the judicious help of the Société des Amis du Louvre, which financed this acquisition.

A preemption always makes one happy - the museum that exercises this right - and one unhappy, the successful bidder. In this case, it was also a museum, since it was the Clark Institute that owned the work for a few seconds, before the French institution exercised its right to take its place. A fratricidal struggle of sorts, since Olivier Meslay, the director of the American museum, is French and was a curator at the Louvre. The work that was stolen from under his nose should be presented in the Guillaume Guillon-Lethière retrospective that the latter is preparing... with the Louvre, which will also receive it. There is no doubt that he will not have too much trouble getting it lent to him.

Jacques-Auguste Fauginet (1809-1847)
Bust of Alexandre Dumas, 1831
Bust in plaster with an imitation bronze patina - H. 64 cm
Preempted by the Musée du Louvre
Photo: Ader
See the image in its page

We haven’t said what it is yet. It is not a painting by Guillon-Lethière, but a sculpture, by Jacques-Auguste Fauginet, a bronze patinated plaster bust of Alexandre Dumas. The writer was indeed a very close friend of this painter, and it is as such that it should be included in this exhibition.
Fauginet was a Romantic sculptor who died young at the age of 38, less well known than his colleagues Barye, Rude or Triqueti, but nevertheless very talented. A pupil of the sculptor and medallist (but also a great collector) Jacques-Édouard Gatteaux, and later of David d’Angers, he regularly took part in the Salons between 1831 (the great Romantic Salon) and 1846, exhibiting busts, including several of the Orléans family, animal bronzes and religious subjects. One of his best-known works, of which several bronze examples exist, was exhibited at the 1836 Salon (in bronze and plaster) and depicts in a particularly lively manner an African hunter fighting a lioness. The Musée Girodet in Montargis has another bronze of the same subject, but with a different composition, much less dramatic. The Louvre has recently been offered by its American Friends (see news item of 26/5/21) a statuette of one of Ferdinand d’Orléans’ horses, named Beggarman (which was presented in Montauban in the exhibition devoted to the prince - see article). The artist also seems to be rare or even absent from museum collections outside France (a quick search of the French sculpture database in the United States and other databases in the United Kingdom and Belgium yielded nothing).

The bust of Alexandre Dumas was acquired by the Friends of the Louvre for €57,600 (including fees). It was presented at the Salon of 1831 [1] with several other busts under n° 2217 and is undoubtedly one of the earliest portraits of the writer, who was then only twenty-eight years old. Nevertheless, two years earlier he had already written Henri III et sa cour, considered the first Romantic drama, even before Hernani, which was not performed until a year later. Dumas’ treatment of curly hair recalls the very expressive manner of David d’Angers in his own busts, thus testifying to the influence his master may have had on Fauginet.
In his Mémoires, Alexandre Dumas speaks of this sculpture, which was then in the home of Jean-Baptiste Porcher, a friend of his who was a theatre director and who served as a model for a character in the Illusions perdues. It reads: "And, for my part, I am grateful to Porcher [...], and, when I go today to Porcher’s, I am happy and proud to see my portrait reproduced three times, in bust, in pastel, in medal, next to the portrait of Porcher’s children".

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