Pierre Jules Mene (1810 – 1877)
Rich Dark Patina
Pierre Jules Mene (1810 – 1877) was born in Paris, France on March 25th 1810. He was the most commercially successful and prolific animal sculptor of his time, and he is considered to be on a par with Barye. His father was a successful metal turner who taught his son how to work with metals and the principles of casting, at an early age. Mene married in 1832 at the age of twenty two and earned his living in metalwork by making furniture adornments and clock decorations. Like Barye and Fremiet he spent a great deal of his time at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, drawing. There he invested many hours sketching the animals from which he would make his sculptures. Though he did receive minimal instruction in art, he never attended any of the prestigious art schools and was for the most part a self taught artist.
By 1837, Mene had established the first of his many foundries where he would cast all of his own bronzes throughout his successful career. His first exhibit was a “Dog and Fox”, cast in bronze, at the Salon of 1838. Mene continued to exhibit at the annual Salon as well as being awarded First Class Medals at the London exhibitions of 1855 and 1861. His favorite subjects were horses, which he is considered to be the master at portraying. Aside from horses, Mene modeled many sculptures of dogs, both at work and at play. He also created bronze sculptures including animal portraits, combat groups, domestic animals and horse racing and hunting groups. It is estimated that he modeled over 150 different subjects during his lifetime and the number of bronze casts produced from these models range well into the thousands.
Mene was a very personable and outgoing individual and by his sheer personality alone he attracted the finest craftsmen to work in his foundry. His home also became a fashionable meeting place for the painters, sculptors and musicians of Paris.
Pierre Jules Mene was truly a man of his art, BEING just as comfortable entertaining the intellectuals of Paris as he was with his apron on, among his foundry workers. His bronzes were widely sold throughout Europe and America and he experienced great success in his business. In 1861 Mene was awarded the Cross of the Legion d’Honneur in recognition of his contributions to art. His bronzes, as well as those of his son-in-law Auguste Cain, were cast with the highest quality detail and workmanship, literally setting a new standard that all other foundries tried to meet. Mene cast his work in large batches but personally and diligently ensured that all models and casts were kept in perfect condition throughout the production so that the last bronze cast, was just as sharp and detailed as the first. Mene did not seek public commissions and he declined many offers to create monuments, instead he focused upon the very successful business of producing and marketing his popular bronze sculptures.
After his death in 1877, his foundry was run by his son-in-law Auguste Cain who continued to produce both Mene’s and his own works to the highest quality standards and continued to submit bronzes in Mene’s name until 1879. Upon the death of Cain in 1894, Mene’s foundry was finally closed and many of his models were sold to the Susse Freres foundry. They published a catalogue of the complete works of P.J. Mene including all of the sizes and subjects. Susse Freres continued to cast and sell Mene’s bronzes into the 20th century, all of them bearing their foundry mark or seal.
The Arab Falconer and his horse was the most expensive of Mene’s animalier bronzes, originally priced at 1000 French Francs – and the version detailed with gold at 1300 French francs – in the 19th century. This bronze was recast on a number of occasions to satisfy public demand.