Polar Bear, ca. 1923
François Pompon (French, 1855–1933)
Marble; H. 9 3/8 in. (23.8 cm), W. 19 in. (48.3 cm)
Purchase, Edward C. Moore, Jr. Gift, 1930 (30.123ab)
As a genre, animalier sculpture—depictions of animals—reached its height in mid-nineteenth century France. The public taste for it, however, lasted well into the first half of the twentieth, even if principally as a form of decoration. François Pompon, a one-time assistant to Rodin, first showed this sculpture in plaster at the 1922 Salon d'Automne at the age of sixty-seven. Its popularity led to its production in a variety of sizes, from table-top to full-scale, in a range of media including plaster, porcelain, and marble. It was a favorite model of his friend the decorator Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, who used it in two of his interiors at the 1925 Paris Exposition: a small version in the salon of his own pavilion and a lifesized version shown at the pavilion of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs. The Metropolitan purchased this sculpture from the Galerie Edgar Brandt, the eponymous Paris showroom of the noted metalworker, in 1930. In addition to displaying his own works, Brandt also exhibited sculpture, paintings, glassware, ceramics, and other decorative arts by his friends, underscoring the close relationship between the fine and decorative arts in French Art Deco.