Renowned for his talent in depicting animals, Emmanuel Frémiet was one of the great French sculptors of the second half of the 19th century. Frémiet was born in 1824 in Paris into a family of modest means that was originally from Burgundy. He turned to sculpture under the influence of his aunt, Sophie Rude, whose maiden name was Frémiet. His training was in no way academic: he worked in various food related trades before studying at the French Natural History Museum, and then at the Petite École. In 1842 he joined the studio of François Rude and made his name by exhibiting animal sculptures at the Salon, some of which caused a scandal, such as the Gorilla carrying off a woman, rejected by the jury in 1859 but exhibited with the support of Count Nieuwerkerke.

During the Second Empire, Frémiet established himself as one of the most talented French sculptors. He produced several monumental sculptures, such as Joan of Arc, located in the Place des Pyramides in Paris and Saint Michael slaying the Dragon, intended to top the spire of Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, produced in 1894 in collaboration with the firm of Monduit. Frémiet’s reputation also came from the fact his works were copied on a smaller scale, allowing them to be spread among a wider public. At the end of his career, Frémiet received several honours: he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1892, appointed Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur in 1900 and in the same year was awarded a Grand Prix at the World Exhibition. His work, which combined monumental work and reproduction sculptures, perfectly embodied late 19th century statue art.

The gourmet Pelican is a spectacular testimony to Frémiet’s talents in the field of animal sculpture. It was commissioned in 1890 by Stéphane Dervillé, President of the Bank of France, and was destined to decorate the dining room of the client’s Parisian manor house, located at 35, Rue de Fortuny. This house had, moreover, previously been the residence of Sarah Bernhardt. The Pelican was paired there with Monkey with soap bubbles, also by Frémiet, and seems to have remained in place until 1970. The work was later put up for sale on two occasions before entering the collection of Geneviève and Pierre Hebey, which was divided up on 23rd February this year. The sculpture, a unique piece, shows great quality of execution in terms of the casting and gold coloured patina. Its acquisition enabled the Petit Palais Frémiet collection to be completed, by including all the aspects of the sculptor’s work.

C. C-V.

City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The collections portal can be used to search the collections of Paris’s 14 municipal museums (approximately 336,000 works, including 43,000 belonging to the Petit Palais).

It is also possible to download around 12,000 images of the museum’s works free of charge.

Access the Museums of the City of Paris collections portal
Autre base documentaire

Extern databases

Discover a selection of databases online presenting works from the Petit Palais or documents concerning the history of the museum.