- Alexandre Falguière (French, Toulouse 1831–1900 Paris)
- ca. 1868
- French, Paris
- Overall (confirmed): H. 23 1/2 x W. 52 x D. 20 in. (59.7 x 132.1 x 50.8 cm)
- Credit Line:
- European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Fund, 2007
- Accession Number:
Investigations into early Christianity constantly renourished Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth century. A best-selling novel by the Irish-born cardinal Nicholas Patrick Wiseman, Fabiola, or the Church of the Catacombs (1854), widely translated, was Alexander Falguière’s immediate source for this sculpture. In the novel, the teenage acolyte Tarcisius is conveying the Host along the Appian Way when he is confronted by pagan playmates who order him to reveal it. He refuses and they stone him. Here, the fallen martyr exhibits a bloodied forehead as well as an expression of beatific rapture as he clutches the holy wafer in his arms, faithful to the end. The fatal paving stones lie at his elbow. A photograph in the Musée Rodin, Paris, shows how Falguière blocked out the pose using a live model, aged about fifteen, covered by massive drapery instead of a tunic and soft boots. The first marble, in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, is dated 1868. In this second version, Falguière seems to have defied the marble’s hardness to create instead a semblance of immateriality.