Antoine-Louis Barye (French, 1796–1875)
Theseus Combating the Centaur Bianor (sketch), modeled ca. 1846–48
Bronze, 13 1/2 x 6 x 14 in.
Signed on base bottom center: A. L. BARYE
Barye is best known for his more Romantic bronzes of animals, but as a student of the Neoclassical sculptor François-Joseph Bosio (1768–1845), he received a thorough grounding in the classical tradition. Ovid recounts the Battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs in his Metamorphoses. Book XII describes how Theseus, ruler of Athens, helped the king of the Lapiths by violently slaying the centaur Bianor.
Barye created two versions of this struggle between a man and centaur. This object is a bronze cast of his first variant, modeled around 1846–48, which was listed in his foundry catalogue of 1855 as a “sketch” for the monumental plaster that was exhibited at the Salon of 1850. The two versions of this work differ substantially, the changes implemented in the later work creating a more emotional and expressive composition.