Jacques-Edme Dumont


Jacques-Edme Dumont

Paris 1761-1844

A Unique Assembly of 101 Terracotta Modelli displayed in a Printers Typecase





The figures measuring between 7 and 10 cms. (2 ¾ x 4in).

The entire case: 68 x 46.5 cm (26 ¾ x 18 ¼ in.)

Provenance: by descent through the artist’s family.

Jacques-Edme Dumont was born on 10 April 1761 into a family of artists, comprising five generations of sculptors. The details of this family were recorded by the art lover and historian Guy Vattier, who lived towards the end of the 19th century1. Vattier conscientiously compiled and recorded the lives of each member and his work is the most comprehensive source of information about Jacques-Edme Dumont, whose achievements are somewhat overshadowed in the literature by those of his father2. Jacques-Edme’s artistic production can be tracked through the records of the Salons, in which he exhibited frequently during the 1790s. A further source for documenting his work is the 1900 exhibition L’exposition centennale de l’art français which sheds light on the artist’s prolific production of terracottas3.
Jacques-Edme’s father, Edme Dumont (1720-1775), was a pupil of Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762) and nephew of Charles-Antoine Coypel, First Painter to the King and director of the Academy who, according to Vattier, had married François Berthault, granddaughter of the Locksmith to the King. Jacques-Edme himself married Marie Elizabeth Louise Curton on 7 November 18064 and their son Auguste-Alexandre Dumont (1801-1884) became well-known for the government commissions he received under the Empire, such as the Spirit of Liberty on the July column or the sculpture topping the Vendôme column. Auguste made a portrait of his father in 1820, the current location of which is unknown. Jacques-Edme’s own career began at the age of 14 in the studio of Auguste Pajou (1730-1809), who was a close friend of his father’s. He became one of Pajou’s favourite pupils, as is witnessed by a significant correspondence between the master and his charge, especially during the period when Dumont was living in Italy. After winning the first prize for sculpture at the Academy in 1788, for a marble relief of The Death of Tarquin, Dumont went on to complete his training at the French Academy in Rome, where he remained until 17935. In letters to his mother, Dumont described the enormous effect this study of Antiquity was having on his work6. Like his master, Pajou, Dumont’s sculptures demonstrated his assimilation of the Ancients but notwithstanding this, he did develop a personal style. In 1789 whilst in Rome Dumont made a reduced marble copy of the Antique original, Cleopatra (also known as Ariane)7. An extremely detailed (despite being tiny) study in terracotta of the same figure, reversed, appears in this group.
While the Salons were disallowed after the Revolution, the Convention instead set up a series of competitions in which Dumont played an active rôle; however the period following his return to Paris, during the severe post-Revolution years, was generally difficult. In order to get through this time of crisis, like many other artists, Dumont started to work on a small scale9, making models for statuettes moulded in bronze, gold, silver and even porcelain, and promoting his small groups of terracotta figures as works ideal for collectors and amateurs to display in their salons. The present collection most probably belongs to exactly this transitional time and illustrates Dumont’s ability to move between the two styles of the bombastic and heroic and the intimate and refined. A few years later, his grandest classical style showed itself to be idealy suited to the new Republican ethos and Dumont went on to receive a number of commissions from the Imperial regime, including the bust of General Marceau, which was exhibited at the reinstated Salon of 1801, part of a larger project commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate revolutionary generals. Dumont also created an entire figure of Marceau, in plaster, for the façade of the Luxembourg palace, for which the Louvre has a model in terracotta8, and another fine free standing sculpture known as Le Sapeur made for the Arc du Carrousel of the Louvre in 1808.
Dumont very frequently portrayed classical figures in his small terracottas – such as Diana and Venus. Less rounded and sensual than the similarly inspired works by artists of the succeeding generation, such as, for example, Maurice-Etienne Falconet (1716-1791), Dumont’s figures are sharply drawn with simplified outlines, an almost geometric approach which recalls the schematic drawings of his fellow student Anne Louis Girodet de Trioson10.
A close study of the Salon lists reveals that some models from this present collection may have been preparatory for Dumont’s Salon entries of the 1780s and 1790s. The study of a naked woman drying  her long hair compares closely with a figure on show at the 1796 Salon13, along with a bathing woman14, and these may be the same figures which were sold at an auction in Paris in 198915, where the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum, New York both bought some very fine pieces by Dumont (Figs.1).
During periods of political turmoil and upheaval, the continuing support of collectors and art lovers greatly aided struggling sculptors threatened by the lack of public commissions for large scale works16. From the beginning of the 18th Century, morceaux d’agrement had begun to be successful at the Salons, and the Academy too was enthusiastic in its promotion of small scale statuettes made of marble as well as terracotta.  Dumont’s work found a number of enthusiasts later in the 19th century such as the architect, Paul-Rene-Leon Ginian17 (1825-1898) of whom there is a photograph (owned by the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts), as he stands in front of a book case, crowded with terracottas of various sizes (Fig.2). Ginian married the widow of August-Alexandre Dumont and may therefore have inherited part of Jacques-Edme Dumont’s studio. Another architect, Hector Lefuel (1810-1880) also collected Dumont’s models, as did the Duchess de Galliera and a certain Dr. Cayeux who owned a small number of pieces now in the Louvre, which came from Ginian’s collection.
Taking into account the miniature size of these figures and their masterfully fluent, sketch-like nature, it may be imagined that they represent the very first stage of Dumont’s creative process, made for the sculptor’s own use and not for sale or public display. They are perhaps a repertory for Dumont to record his experiments with theme and form; hence there are a number of figures of Venus for example as well as of Mary Magdalen. A vignette exists, the words of Dumont’s son, recorded by Vattier which describes their exécution: ‘It is a childhood memory: I see it still, rue de Bagneux, papa Mont, as we called him in the family, seated in an armchair, a night cap pulled down to his eyebrows … holding between his thumb and index finger a cork which served as the support, on which he modelled those figurines which lacked nothing in detail despite being, for the most part, only five or six centimetres high18. It is also possible that some of the figures record sculptures by Dumont which later disappeared, during the destructive period of the 1871 Commune. The fragility of these tiny modelli, with their delicate but highly expressive character, makes it all the more remarkable that they have survived as such an assembly, thanks chiefly to the ingenious and artful manner in which the artist’s printer descendent has preserved and displayed the collection.


1 As G. Vattier would qualify himself in a letter addressed on behalf of Auguste Dumont to the National museum’s director, Mr. Saglio, dated 12th April 1886 (AMN S30 Dumont Auguste-Alexandre): «C’est au nom de la famille de l’illustre statuaire et au mien aussi, comme son exécuteur testamentaire et son historien que je me permets de vous adresser cette requête»
2G. Vattier published two versions of his book about the Dumonts’ family: G. Vattier, Augustin Dumont, Notes sur sa famille, sa vie et ses ouvrages, Paris, H. Oudin, Librairie Editeur, 1885 ; Une famille d’artistes, Les Dumont 1660-1884, Paris, 1890, Librairie Ch. Delagrave
3 « Les sujets de plusieurs esquisses en terre cuite nous sont connus par l’importante présentation qui en fut faite lors de l’exposition centennale de l’art français » in Nouvelles acquisitions du département des sculptures, 1988-1991, RMN, p. 96
5 Brevet de pensionnaire du roi à l’Academie de France à Rome en date du
6 G. Vattier, 1890, p.4 : «  et je suis actuellement avec des maîtres qui, quoique ne parlant pas, me disent beaucoup plus que ceux qui parlent, ceux sont les antiques. »
7 Stanislas Lamy, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école Française, 1910, vol. I, p. 303 : « Cléopâtre. Petite réduction en marbre d’après l’antique, Rome, année 1789. » ; G. Vattier, 1890 : p. 71 : il « recouvra plus tard ses portefeuilles de dessins et tous ses ouvrages, parmi lesquels l’ébauche réduite en marbre de la figure antique connue autrefois sous le nom de Cléopâtre  et désignée actuellement sous celui d’Ariane. »
8J.E. Dumont, General Marceau, 35 x 14 cm, terracotta, 1804, RF 2707
9 La revue des arts, III, septembre 1951 : deux maquettes de Jacques-Edme Dumont, pp. 181-183: « Les sculpteurs n’eurent guère l’occasion de réaliser des œuvres définitives pendant la Révolution et le Consulat : l’époque ne s’y prêtait pas. Seules de rares maquettes rappellent le souvenir de monuments éphémères. »
10 A. L. Girodet de Roucy de Trioson,  Junon and Juturne, 132 x 131 mm, black chalk, RF 34760
11 Lamy, 1910, p. 303: « La Vierge et l’enfant Jésus. Groupe en plâtre (année 1785). »
12 Lamy, 1910, p. 303 : « Deux petites figures, l’une tenant un vase, l’autre une cuvette. Terre-cuite. Salon de 1795. Exposées de nouveau au salon de l’Elysée de 1797. »
13 Garland, Dictionnaire général des artistes de l’école française, New York & London, 1979, vol. II, p. 478 : Une femme sortant du bain se pressant les cheveux.
14 Lamy, 1910, p. 303: « Femme sortant du bain. Statuette en plâtre. Salon de 1796. »
15 Vente Objet d’art et bel ameublement, 24 avril 1989, hôtel Drouot, Paris, expert de Bayser pour les dessins et les terres cuites, étude Hervé, Chayette, Laurence, Calmels
16François Souchal, « Délectation de l’amateur. Morceaux de salons … » in Histoire d’un art, La Sculpture, Grande Tradition de la sculpture du XVe au XVIIIe siècle, Le Rococo, Genève, 1987, Skira, pp. 272
17Léon Ginain, architect of Notre-Dame-des Champs (Paris VI) or the Galliera Museum (Paris IX), he won the Rome Prize in 1875 and became a member of the Institute in 1881. As mentioned with regard to the model Hebe and Juno in the Louvre collections : “Collection de Paul-René-Léon Ginain (1825-1898) puis de sa femme, veuve en première noce d’Auguste Dumont. Exposition centennale de 1900. Collection du Docteur Cayeux, 1977.”
18.. ’ " C'est un souvenir de mon enfance : je vois encore, rue de Bagneux, papa Mont, comme on l'appelait familièrement, assis dans son fauteuil, un bonnet de coton enfoncé jusqu'aux sourcils ( …) tenant entre le pouce et l'index un bouchon lui servant de selle sur lequel il modelait des figurines auxquelles il ne manquait aucun détail, et haute pour la plupart de cinq à six centimètres " See G. Vattier, op. cit.

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site