Description
Rembrandt BUGATTI (1885 - 1916)
Large Reclining Leopard, c. 1911

Bronze proof, #8
Lost wax cast by Adrien Aurélien Hébrard et Albino Palazzolo
Signed: R. Bugatti
H: 32; W: 41; D: 16.5 cm

Provenance:

French private collection

Literature:

-Vauxcelles, Louis, « La Fonte à Cire perdue » (“Lost Wax Casting”), Art et Décoration, vol.18, July-December, 1905, pp.189-197.
-Parkes, Kineton “Rembrandt Bugatti : Modeller of animals. Exhibition of Bronzes at the Abdy Gallery,” Apollo, vol.10, No.59, November 1929, pp.312-313, repr.
-Chalom des Cordes, Jacques et Fromanger, Véronique, Rembrandt Bugatti, catalogue raisonné, Paris, Les Editions de l’Amateur, 1987, p.200, repr.
-Lebon, Elisabeth, Dictionnaire des fondeurs de bronze d’art (Dictionary of Founders of Art Bronzes), France 1890-1950, Marjon, 2003.
-Horswell, Edward, Rembrandt Bugatti, Life in Scultpture, Sladmore gallery, 2004.
-Fromanger, Véronique, Rembrandt Bugatti sculpteur, répertoire monographique, Les Editions de l’Amateur, Paris, 2009,n°271, repr.

Exhibitions:

1929, Abdy Gallery, London.

Description:

The Large Reclining Leopard exists in two sizes. The original plaster of the large model, 44 cm high, is held in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome;[1] only three bronze examples of the large model are currently known.

This model is the smaller one, and is one of twenty-three examples in bronze listed in Véronique Fromanger’s “Répertoire monographique.” The edition attests to the success of the model. The bronzes are numbered from 1 to 10, then from A1 to A10, and then from B1 to B3 (see note below for an explanation of Hébrard’s numbering system). They have been featured in important collections, such as that of the New York entrepreneur, glass artist, and important Bugatti collector, Louis Comfort Tiffany (#A5). Hébrard’s records indicate that #8 originally belonged to a Monsieur Daniel Vincent of Beauvais.

Like the majority of Bugatti bronzes, the Large Reclining Leopard is an exceptional casting with an equally exceptional patina. Rembrandt Bugatti had the good fortune to work with the best bronze artists of the day throughout his very short career.

A.-A. Hébrard’s lost wax casts are among the most beautiful ever made. “The lost wax casts of M. A.-A. Hébrard of works by Rodin, Dalou, Falguière, Debois, Bartholomé, Bourdelle, and others are unanimously appreciated by connoisseurs,” the art critic Louis Vauxcelles affirmed in 1905.[2] Founder, art dealer, and experienced collector, Hébrard took Rembrandt Bugatti under his wing in 1904, when the sculptor was as yet unknown, offering him an exclusive contract and producing his work until his death. He also promoted Bugatti’s work through regular exhibitions in his rue Royale gallery in Paris’s 8th arrondissement, inviting an extensive network of collectors to come to view the pieces. As an experienced businessman, he knew to limit the edition’s number to make them more desirable.[3] But their success is above all attributable to the quality of the casting and to their exceptional patinas. “One remembers the supple bronzes vibrating with life done by the young animal sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti,” Vauxcelles added.[4] This excellent work is the product of an ancestral knowledge handed down by Albino Palazzolo, the head of the foundry. Bugatti had met Palazzolo, a native of Milan, in Italy and introduced him to Hébrard in 1904.[5] The bronzes that came out of the collaboration among Hébrard, Palazzolo, and Bugatti are so alive, so attentive to the artist’s intentions, down to the smallest detail, that they are literally inimitable.

The Large Reclining Leopard emanates the calm force of the wild animal at the height of his powers. The smooth flesh subtly reveals innumerable muscles, whose strength we sense, poised and ready for action.
After having dedicated the first half of his career to farm and domestic animals, Bugatti became interested in wild species and went often to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris as well as to the zoo in Antwerp.[6] He developed a particular interest in big cats, observing them endlessly, to the point that they established a kind of complicity. Only after extensive observation did he begin the model, working en plein air, directly in plasticine, which allowed him to capture their poses accurately and with all their spontaneity.

Models of cats appear throughout his work. Between 1904 and 1913, he translated various attitudes and postures of lions and lionesses, panthers and leopards, tigers and jaguars and pumas all into sculptures that chronicle the development of his style. The relatively similar morphology of the jaguar and the leopard caused the Large Reclining Leopard to be initially catalogued under the title of Walking Jaguar.[7] Throughout 1911 and 1912, Bugatti studied different aspects of the leopard; as a pendant to Reclining Leopard, he modeled Walking Leopard (#272) and then a panther or a small sitting leopard. In 1912, he made several groups, including Two Leopards Walking (#301), Two Leopards, one behind the other (#300), andTwo Large Leopards (#303). In the last two groups, the female leopard displays a pose and morphology very close to those of the Large Leopard Reclining.

“The formal elegance and the dynamism of his felines from this period is extraordinary.”[8] The Large Reclining Leopard is representative of a period based on highly stylized forms that replaced the strongly modeled “impressionist” style and preceded the “expressionist” style. This period is also characterized by subtle modeling that is often smooth, though at times striated in places.

The Large Reclining Leopard was created at a time when Rembrandt Bugatti was particularly prolific, perfecting his mastery of the art. In 1911, he received his due recognition; he was awarded the Legion of Honor, and Hébrard organized a large and very successful exhibition that brought together over one hundred of his works.

 

APPENDIX
The founder Adrien Hébrard numbered his proofs as follows:[9]
1. The letter M: Hébrard began with one or more proofs marked M for model.
2. The series numbered in Arabic numerals: The next series of proofs was generally limited to 10, occasionally 12, and numbered 1 through 10 or 12.
3. The alpha-numeric series: If the model was successful, he would continue the editioning by series. The first series was marked with the letter A, the second, with B, the third, C etc., and then with the number that corresponded to the proof’s place in the series: A1, A2, A3, etc.

Though it’s useful for identifying the proofs, it doesn’t guarantee an accurate count; on the one hand, his use of this numbering system wasn’t entirely consistent; for instance, some proofs were not numbered; on the other hand, the numbering was sometimes random, not following a logical order and sometimes going beyond the established structure, resulting in proofs numbered E3 or 24.

 

[1]Inventory #2671. Donation A.-A. Hébrard, 1924.
[2]Vauxcelles, Art et Décoration, 1905.
[3]He was the first to establish a numbering system for bronzes.
[4]Vauxcelles, Art et Décoration, 1905.
[5]Albino Palazzolo made a death mask of Bugatti on 8 January, 1916, at the request of Ettore Bugatti.
[6]The zoo at Antwerp was considered, at the time, one of the best in the world. Rembrandt Bugatti began working there in 1906. A large exhibition of his works was done there in 1910.
[7]Chalom de Cordes, 1987, p. 200.
[8]Horswell, 2004, p. 85.
[9]This description is based on the work of A.S. Ciechanowiecki, published in the 1964 Jules Dalou catalogue from the Heim gallery. Jacques Ginepro reprinted it in l’Estampille, #146, June 1982.
To better understand Hébrard’s numbering system, see also his work on the sculptures of Pompon and Degas: Liliane Colas, François Pompon, Gallimard, 1994, p. 99, and Anne Pingeot, Degas Sculptures, Catalogue raisonné of the Bronzes, International Arts and the Torch Press, 2002.