Félicie de Fauveau is one of the few female sculptors of the Romantic generation to have enjoyed a successful career. Admired by Stendhal and Alexandre Dumas, this artist, recently rediscovered thanks to the exhibition devoted to her by the Musée d’Orsay and the Historial de la Vendée in 2013, managed to make a career for herself, in both France and Italy, while also expressing her Legitimist beliefs.

Born in 1801 in Livourne to a family of French financiers ennobled in the 18th century, Félicie de Fauveau returned to France in 1814, where her family set up home in the then fashionable district of Nouvelle-Athènes. Aware from an early age of her artistic vocation, the young Félicie de Fauveau trained with the painter Louis Hersent, before taking up sculpture, which she taught herself. She secured her first success at the Salon of 1827 with two reliefs on historical subjects, one of which, showing Christine, Queen of Sweden, refusing to pardon her grand squire Monaldeschi, now at the Musée Municipal, Louviers, featured in the Romantic Paris exhibition held recently at the Petit Palais. The young woman’s career collapsed in 1830 with the coming to power of Louis-Philippe and the younger branch of the Orléans. Fiercely Legitimist, Félicie de Fauveau supported the Duchess of Berry and took part in two uprisings in Vendée, which led to her being imprisoned and condemned to exile. In 1833, Félicie de Fauveau moved to Florence, where she would remain for the rest of her life. In this Medicean city, home to Dante and Donatello, Félicie de Fauveau pursued her artistic career and opened a studio with her brother, Hippolyte de Fauveau. The Fauveau studio went on to produce extremely refined sculptures and artworks, destined for the European princely elites and inspired by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Fountain with Triton is one of the ornamental sculptures produced by the Fauveau studio in Florence, and it was exhibited in Paris at the Universal Exposition of 1855 (no. 5121). It is presented in the form of a relief whose strange cut, in a trefoil design inspired by Gothic architecture, is highly characteristic of the artist. Its iconography, combining fish, a triton and a young siren, is more reminiscent of the ornamental vocabulary of Baroque sculpture, while also clearly referring to the function of the object, intended to adorn the centre of a pond.

This beautiful sculpture, with its high quality of execution, perfectly illustrates the artist’s interest in decoration and in the theme of “the union of arts and industry” dear to the artists of the 19th century.

C. C.-V.

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