Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, 1827–1875)
H. 5 1/8 in. (13 cm)
Inscription (on red-wax atelier seal on back of lower gown): PROPRIÉTÉ CARPEAUX
Purchase, Friends of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Gifts, 1989 (1989.289.2)
In 1868, Empress Eugénie introduced Carpeaux to Amélie de Montfort, daughter of a general. They were wed in great pomp at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris the next year. No one could guess from this sketch, with its warmth of feeling, that the marriage would be an unhappy one. This ébauche, the first step in modeling, is the equivalent of the friskiest pen drawing. The head is a mere blob, but gradually we discern neck ribbon and bustle amidst the fingerprints. Ernest Chesneau, Carpeaux's early biographer (1880), writes that the sculptor had the daily habit of shaping such sketches at lightning speed and "even practiced modeling blindfolded," which was, according to Carpeaux, "the only way to understand form." In this case, the sculptor wished to render permanent a fleeting glimpse of his fiancée. Her gown bears the wax atelier seal and a paper sticker with the number 358, corresponding to the study of "Mademoiselle de M." in the auction of his works.