A Very Good 19thC French White Marble Bust of a Working Class Boy by Aimé-Jules Dalou c.1860-80

Origin: French
Period: Mid/Late 19thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1860-80
Width: 13”
Depth: 7”
Height: 17” (all at extremities)

The evocative carved and weathered white marble bust showing the head and shoulders of a working class young boy, aged around ten, in a baker boy or flat cap, his eyes closed and his mouth wide open in exclamation, surviving from the middle period of nineteenth century France and signed ‘Dalou’ to the rear for Aimé-Jules Dalou 1838-1902).

The bust has some weathering to it with some staining, losses and overall wear as per the photographs. The peak of his cap is partially missing with damage to both ears and losses overall particularly to front edge. The staining marks appear could be cleaned away if so desired, and his condition is very decorative. It is naturally very heavy so would need a suitable resting spot. There is an old hole drilled to one side with a metal rod inserted so that the bust stands true, this isn’t the most attractive solution but it does stand steady and displays well. It is possible that the bust is a fragment of a larger composition.

The quality of the work is shown in the way the emotion is so well captured, perhaps he is calling out for a sale of a newspaper or maybe it’s a shout of pain as he begs the streets; the mouth is agape, the teeth are bared, the eyes are clasped shut in exclamation, the eyebrows rendered well, there is detailing to his overcoat and the caps features can still be made out amongst the losses. The movement in the crumpling of the hat and the sheer perception of this emotive youngster is wonderfully executed. As the artist spent eight years of his career in England it is possible that this piece was created in England and modelled on an English youth rather than a French one.

All men wore hats in Victorian times with the wealthy men wearing top hats and the poorer, caps. Flat caps were very common for North American and European men and boys of all classes during the nineteenth and early 20th centuries and were almost universal during the 1910s-20s, particularly among the working 'lower' classes. These caps worn not only by newsboys, but by dockworkers, high steel workers, shipwrights, costermongers, farmers, beggars, (such as Oliver Twist of which this piece reminds one of), bandits, artisans, and tradesmen of many types.

Aimé-Jules Dalou (31 December 1838, in Paris – 15 April 1902, in Paris) was a French sculptor, recognized as one of the most brilliant virtuosos of nineteenth-century France, admired for his perceptiveness, execution, and unpretentious realism. He combined the vivacity and richness of Carpeaux, for "he was, technically, one of the most distinguished modellers of his time", with the academic insistence on harmonious outlines and scholarly familiarity with the work of Giambologna, Pierre Puget, Peter Paul Rubens and others. He made no secret of his working-class sympathies (which is perhaps why this sculpture was created showing a lower class boy in strife) and having identified himself too publicly with the Paris Commune of 1871, as curator at the Musée du Louvre under Gustave Courbet, he was convicted in absentia by the French government of participation in the Commune, and given a life sentence. He took refuge in England in July 1871 In his eight-year English exile, Dalou's association with City and Guilds of London Art School, the National Art Training School and the artists of the New Sculpture movement laid the foundation for new developments in the post-classical British school of sculpture. He returned to France in 1879, after the declaration of amnesty, and produced a number of masterpieces. Dalou, who was awarded the Grand Prix of the Exposition Universelle (1889), was made a commander of the Legion of Honor. He was one of the founders of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and was the first president of the sculpture section. Dalou died in Paris on 15 April 1902, aged 63, and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

A truly emotive and evocative piece by a very well respected and listed sculptor which conjures up visions of the street urchin and a fog filled Dickensian-like Paris.