Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-92)
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Ferdinand Barbedienne’s casts are renowned for their exceptional high quality, much of his success resting upon the exploitation of an invention by his friend and partner Achille Collas (1795-1859). In 1847, they devised a process known as appareil réducteur that enabled accurate reductions of classical and contemporary sculptures to be reproduced to a chosen scale in bronze.
Among the many subjects reproduced by the foundry were famous pieces after Michelangelo, Coyzevox, copies after the Antique as well as those by nineteenth century sculptors such as the animalier A-L Barye, David d’Angers and the latter’s pupil Armand Toussaint.
Bust of Voltaire
Barbedienne’s bronze foundry, which opened in 1839 soon became the most technically advance of its kind. With a workforce of some 300 skilled labourers, the firm was responsible for casting many of Paris and the nation’s public monuments, interior decorations and architectural bronzes. The foundry also employed its own modellers such as Carrier-Belleuse and Clesinger, producing in addition to bronzes, silverware and reproduction furniture particularly in the Renaissance and Louis XVI styles.
Augustus of Primaporta
In 1850, Barbedienne was commissioned to furnish the main reception rooms of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris and later in the 1880’s began reproducing Japonaiserie furniture and imitation Chinese and Japanese works in bronze.
As Barbedienne proudly announced on the front cover of his 1886 trade catalogue, his firm won many important medals at various Expositions Universelles including those at Vienna, Amsterdam and Anvers. At the Paris show of 1855 he was awarded a grande medal d’honneur and the grand prix in 1878. Likewise, he caused a sensation at the Great Exhibition of London, 1851 where his stand included an ebony and bronze bookcase featuring bronze mounts modelled by Clesinger after Michelangelo and Ghiberti.
Later he produced some very fine enamel work, some of which was shown at the London Exhibition of 1862. But in spite of his diversity, Barbedienne’s greatest contribution to the arts was probably the quality of his bronze castings of works by so many of Europe’s greatest masters.
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