A memorable example of French Romanticism, Jean-Jacques Feuchère’s Satan combines horror, beauty and nervous humor. After his fall from heaven, Satan sits on a tree stump, holding a broken sword, gnawing his fingertips.1 He has thick brows, a hooked nose, oversized ears and horns protruding from his forehead. In the throes of despair, he curses his fate, bent on revenge.
The bronze is notable for the quality of the casting and its finish. The rough chasing of the wings and base contrast with the smooth modeling and mellow gleam of the body and face. Once a beautiful angel, the naked Satan hides within great bat wings that end in sinister talons, his lithe feet probing the ground. Seen in the round, the naturalism, patina, and protruding vertebrae invite a tactile response.
Large bronze versions of Satan are rare. Only four examples of this 80 cm. size are known: the bronze cast by Vittoz in 1850 (LACMA)2; a bronze which came on the market in 2007; and another offered for sale at Sotheby’s London, March 11, 2008. The sculpture was initially intended as a mantelpiece decoration, with Satan at the center, flanked by two vases in the shape of bats. Feuchère showed the plaster model at the 1834 Salon (no. 2243), and the small bronze version at the Salon of 1835 (no. 2037).
In his account of the 1834 Salon, the painter and art critic Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps praised the work: ‘among all the angels and demons, there is one figure that incontestably merits particular attention because of the original character it has been imprinted with, because of the novelty of its composition and the conscientious craftsmanship with which it is rendered, it is the Satan of M. Feuchère, a personification, with plenty of verve and ardor, of the evil genius at odds with being powerless.’3
The son of the bronze maker and finisher Jacques-François Feuchère, Jean-Jacques trained under the sculptors Cortot and Ramey. He worked as a goldsmith and bronze finisher, before experimenting with enameling and metalwork. His Satan anticipates Carpeaux’s Ugolino and Rodin’s Thinker.
Milton’s Paradise Lost most likely inspired Feuchère’s image. The Romantic fascination with evil and the macabre appear in Delacroix’s prints of Mephistopheles (1827) and John Martin’s Pandemonium (1841)4. Charles Baudelaire, who knew Feuchère and considered making him the subject of a short story, wrote in his 1857 Hymn to Beauty:
Angel or Siren? Satan? God? Who cares
so long as you, O queen with eyes of satin,
O scent, light, rhythm, make the universe
less loathsome and the lapse of time less leaden
Human in sorrow and appearance, Feuchère’s Satan remains a compelling image.
French & Company was founded in the mid-19th century and was active supplying American robber barons and the museums they founded with decorative arts, sculpture and tapestries. In 1968, Martin Zimet, a former Wall Street banker and oilman, bought the firm. Henry joined the business in 1981. Today, we buy and sell European paintings from the Renaissance to the mid-20th century. Our inventory includes paintings by Gustave Courbet, Willem Claesz Heda and many other treasures. Over the past decade, several important American and European museums have been clients. We welcome inquiries and are open by appointment.