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Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux

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Jean Baptiste Carpeaux (sometimes called Jules Carpeaux) was born on May 11, 1827, in Valenciennes, the son of a mason. In 1842 he studied in Paris under the leading romantic sculptor, François Rude. 

The following year Carpeaux worked at the atelier of the sculptor Francisque Duret. He first arrived in Paris in 1836, and worked as a messenger while studying at the free Petite École. 

Ten years later, in 1846, Carpeaux studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and he quickly stood apart from the neoclassic formulas of his time in the vehement expressiveness of his figures, that are outstanding for their animation and lifelike grace. The nude was a major motif of his large-scale allegorical works. 

  • France 1958. Portrait of Jean Baptiste Carpeaux. The stamp is a semi-postal from the series "Famous Persons". 

France 1958. Famous Persons. Jean Baptiste Carpeaux. Semi-postal.

In 1854 Carpeaux won the Prix de Rome for his neoclassic statue "Hector Imploring the Gods for His Son, Astyanax". At this time he also worked in a tempestuous romantic vein, as may be seen in "Ugolino and His Starving Sons" (1857-1861), which was executed and exhibited in Rome during his stay there, studying the works of Michelangelo, Donatello, and Verrocchio. The literary inspiration of this work was "Dante's Inferno", where Carpeaux found the description of the suffering of Ugolino. His interpretation of this group broke with prevailing formulas and laid the foundation for his reputation as the leading sculptor of the day. "Ugolino" belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 1862 Carpeaux returned to Paris, executing a pediment for the Pavillon de Flore of the Louvre (1863). 

In 1867-69 he produced "The Dance" for Charles Garnier's recently built Opera House in Paris (original in the Louvre). This work is rightfully considered one of his masterpieces, expressing joyful abandon with its gracefully intertwined figures, flowing draperies, and intense facial expressions. The group is situated on the right side of the façade of the Opera, and was strongly criticized in his own time as an offence to common decency. The Opera, also known as Opera Garnier, is built in the Neo-Baroque style, and is the thirteenth Parisian theatre to house the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV in 1669. Since the building of the Opera Bastille in 1989, it is now commonly referred to as the Opera Garnier. 

Having returned to Paris, Carpeaux executed numerous portrait busts and became the favored portrait sculptor of Napoleon III and his court. His sensitive portraits combined anatomical and psychological realism with a lyricism reflecting the Rococo revival that permeated much of the period's sculpture. His use of deep shadow and emphasis on chiaroscuro [clair-obscur] influenced later sculptors, including Auguste Rodin. Carpeaux also worked as a painter. Two of his portrait busts portray Madame Amélie de Monfort, whom Carpeaux married in 1869, and Madame Turner. 

Fujeira 1971. Carpeaux: "La Danse". Fujeira 1971. Carpeaux: Portrait Bust of Amélie de Monfort. Fujeira 1971. Carpeaux: Portrait Bust of Madame Turner.
Carpeaux never managed to finish his last work, the famous Fountain of the Four Parts of the Earth.  

He did finish the terrestrial globe, supported by the four figures of Asia, Europe, America, and Africa, shown on the stamp on the right.  It was Emmanuel Frémiet who completed the work by adding the eight leaping horses, the tortoises and the dolphins of the basin. 

Emmanuel Frémiet was a French sculptor (1824-1910), who lived and died in Paris. He was the nephew and pupil of François Rude, Carpeaux's art professor. 

He became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1892.  

  • Fujeira 1971. Carpeaux: "The Four Continents". Only the terrestrial globe with the four figures are shown on the stamp. The group is located in Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris. 

Fujeira 1971. Carpeaux. "The Four Continents".

Carpeaux: "The Four Continents". Photograph.

For the sake of completeness I would like to show my own photograph of this impressive group, showing the whole scenery of the leaping horses, the dolphins and the tortoises.

The photograph was taken during a visit to Paris in the summer of 1991. 

To escape the Commune in 1871 Carpeaux moved to England. He suffered from a paranoid persecution complex in his later years, dying of cancer in 1875, only 48 years old. 

France has produced a number of noted sculptors. Jean Goujon and Germain Pilon were famous 16th-century Mannerist sculptors; in the 17th century Pierre Puget sculpted in the baroque style; Puget inspired the 18th-century French rococo sculptors Jean Baptiste Pigalle and Claude Michel. 

Leading 19th-century sculptors were François Rude, Antoine Louis Barye, and Jean Baptiste Carpeaux. The most important 19th-century sculptor, however, was Auguste Rodin. 

In the early 20th century Romanian-born Constantin Brancusi and Italian-born Amedeo Modigliani both worked in Paris. Noted artists Marcel Duchamp and Jean Arp also sculpted in Paris in the 20th century. 

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