New acquisition: Satyr and Nymph

by Claude Michel, known as Clodion

The Nationalmuseum’s collection of sculpture has gained a terracotta sculpture by the French artist Claude Michel, known as Clodion. The sculpture of a satyr embracing a nymph typifies Clodion’s work in many respects. This piece, which probably dates from the 1780s, is a finished work rather than a prototype. Clodion produced these terracotta pieces for an eager market that could hardly wait for him to finish his works, since they were so popular. He produced several variations on the satyr and nymph theme, but the piece recently acquired by Nationalmuseum is one of the most thoroughly executed. The two figures, perfectly balanced in relation to each other, appear to be fashioned from a single piece of clay. Rather than powerful eroticism, the work exudes a gentle sensualism, which is most evident in the tentative kiss being exchanged between the couple. Clodion makes elegant play with the contrast between the plastic smoothness of the skin and the graphic nature of the nymph’s hair, carved into the clay while it was still wet.

On account of its sensual subject matter, in 1990 the grouping ended up in a private Swedish erotica collection. At different points in its life it had belonged to Henri Rochefort, a prominent French politician, and Jacques Doucet, a legendary art collector, whose collection (auctioned off piecemeal in 1912) included Picasso’s les Demoiselles d’Avignon. A counterpart to Clodion’s Satyr and Nymph can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The version now acquired by Nationalmuseum was long believed to be lost.

The acquisition was made possible by a generous donation from the Sophia Giescke Foundation.

Inventory number: NMSk 2346


 

Picture: Clodion, Satyr and nymph

Clodion, Satyr and Nymph


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