Before creating the bust of Samuel Welles de la Vallette, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux had made one of his mother, the Marquise de la Vallette (of which the Petit Palais has a plaster trial) in 1861, while he was a resident artist at the Villa Médicis where he had been working with the Ugolin group since 1856.

He had made the acquaintance of the Marquise, the wife of the ambassador to the Holy See, through the Marquis de Piennes who introduced him, upon his return to France, to the world of the Court.

According to the artist’s daughter, the bust of the Marquis was made in 1865, when the sculptor was working on his first large monumental commission, the decoration of the façade of the Flore wing of the Louvre. At the same time Carpeaux led an active society life and enjoyed the favour of the Imperial family: in 1864 he had been appointed as drawing teacher to the Imperial Prince, and was made a Knight of the Légion d’honneur in 1866.

The bust of Samuel Welles de la Valette (1843-1893) is a reminder of the enthusiasm shown for Carpeaux’s work by the elite of the Second Empire. Count Samuel Welles de la Valette (1843-1893), was the son of an American banker who had been adopted by Marquis Charles de la Valette (1843-1893), the second husband of his mother, Adeline Fowle. Like the banker Edouard André, for whom Carpeaux created a bust during the same year, Samuel Welles was no doubt aware of the talent of the young artist enjoying burgeoning fame.

The work bears witness to Carpeaux’s sense of ease in the field of portraiture: the rounded shape of the bust allows the sculptor to portray the details of the clothing with casual elegance (the knot in the scarf worn by the marquis, the buttons – open - which adorn the coat collar). Carpeaux successfully portrays the affable expression of his model and the vivacity of his gaze. The Marquis seems to have been captured in a natural pose, as if on the point of turning towards an imaginary visitor.

C. C.-V.

City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The online catalogue of the Petit Palais collections includes around 35,000 notes and is added to regularly. Some notes have minimal information; others are more detailed. They are illustrated or they will be shortly.

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