The Renaissance, natural style

On 23 January 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

A bronze summons the sculptor Ponce Jacquiot to see the light again in this rose soon to be without a thorn…

Ponce Jacquiot (ca. 1515-1570), La Tireuse d'épine (The Thorn-puller), bronze with varnished medal patina, Italy, late 16th century, 25 x 22.10 x 11.9 cm.
Estimate: €100,000

The elegant pose, slender proportions, small, neat, breasts and refined hairstyle make us forget that this statue harks back to an iconic model of Antiquity. Whatever the angle you see it from, everything in this bronze, right through to its luminous patina, expresses a harmony skillfully modelled by an artist long forgotten before he was finally recognised as one of the leading masters of the Renaissance: Ponce Jacquiot (ca. 1515-1570). This native of Rethel, in the Ardennes, was the only French sculptor cited by Vasari, no less! We know that he spent two periods in Rome: the first between 1527 and 1535, the second between 1553 and 1556. These naturally gave him the opportunity to admire antique statuary: not only many a delicate "Venus pudica" and of course the famous "Thorn-puller", but also the fresco painted by Raphael for Cardinal Bibbiena's bathroom, or at least Marco Dente's engraving of it. Jacquiot must have been inspired by one of these figures to model his famous terracotta thorn-puller. Long thought lost after being listed in the collections of François Girardon (one of the leading sculptors under Louis XIV) and the Crozat family, it was found in 1976 at an auction by a great discoverer, the dealer and collector Jacques Petithory, and bought by the Louvre four years later. In this city of the arts, Jacquiot also developed a liking for small bronzes designed for the private collections of art lovers. The practice was common in Italy, but extremely rare in France. So he agreed to have his charming young lady cast, bringing her into modern times. Girardon also owned a copy (possibly the one now in the Victoria & Albert Museum), as witness the inventory drawn up after his death in 1715. Did Jacquiot himself bring back any from his stays? History does not relate: but it does tell us that on his first return to France he collaborated with Androuet du Cerceau and Primaticcio on the Fontainebleau and Tuileries projects, and then worked on Henri II's funerary monument in Saint-Denis. For the king who died tragically during a tournament and famously nurtured a passion for the beautiful Diane de Poitiers, he designed two figures of virtues: Prudence and Temperance. He gave them the same regular face, wide-open eyes and slightly elongated form of the ideal model as his delightful Thorn-puller. And her charms have lost none of their appeal...

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