top of page

Bronze Model of a Seated Cat 
Antoine-Louis Barye (French, 1795-1875)
circa 1870's
Bronze, signed "BARYE" on the embankment
3 5/8 x 3 1/4 x 1 5/8 (4 3/4H on base) inches 


In the early 1870s , the Baryes was often ill, he staying at home, and spending time in his workshop. In his studio he had a black Algerian greyhound and a cat as that kept as his companions and pets. This sculpture is an observation model of his own cat. This piece is calm and pacific which is a strong counterpoint to his most famously vigorous works that he was known for as one of the premier artists of the Romantics School.


Antoine-Louis Barye lived his entire life in Paris and may never have left France. It is believed that he had minimal formal schooling even in reading. He is said to have acquired his extensive liberal-arts education on his own. His initial professional training was in metalwork: first with his father, a goldsmith from Lyons, then with a metal engraver in military equipment, and finally with Martin-Guillaume Biennais (active 1800-1832), then master goldsmith to Napoleon. After serving in the army from 1812 to 1814, Barye trained in the fine arts in both sculpture and painting. He then studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1818 to 1823 and made his Salon debut in 1827 with a selection of busts.


Barye made his critical and public mark as a sculptor four years later, in the Salon of 1831, with groups representing predatory violence in the wild. His first government commission came soon after, precisely for such subject matter which was a monumental sculpture of Lion Crushing a Serpent which in 1836 was placed in the Tuileries Gardens (now Musée du Louvre, Paris). From that point forward, Barye was chosen for numerous government commissions throughout the 1830s and 1840s. 


During these same years the royal family began buying and commissioning small-scale works from Barye for their private collections. Around 1834, the duc d'Orléans commissioned a highly publicized surtout de table representing hunts of different regions and historical periods, possibly one of several tabletop projects that he ordered from Barye. The duc's sister Marie d'Orléans, and brother, the duc de Montpensier, are believed to have commissioned works from Barye as well.


After the death of the duc d'Orléans in 1842, he embarked on a new venture that lasted his entire career. He began to market his figurative and ornamental works as small-scale serial bronzes, first through the foundry Maison Besse in 1844, then directly to the public. He then worked in partnership with entrepreneur Emile Martin from 1845 to 1857, after which he proceeded independently. This serial production provided Barye's most widespread and enduring reputation, with casts distributed throughout the United States and Europe during the artist's lifetime. In the process he closely aligned himself with high-quality industrial craftsmanship. He won the coveted Grand Gold Medal for technical excellence for a selection of his serial proofs in the industrial arts section of the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855, while simultaneously garnering accolades in the fine arts section for his bronze Jaguar Devouring a Hare (Musée du Louvre, Paris). 


His other skills were put to work during the Second Republic and the Second Empire. Beginning in 1848, Barye served as director of plaster casting at the Louvre and curator of the gallery of plaster casts. In 1850 he taught drawing at the agricultural school at Versailles and, from 1854 until his death, he was master of zoological drawing at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, where the young Rodin briefly studied with him in 1863. 

Simultaneously, his career as a monumental sculptor revived. He received several government commissions during this period which adorned many iconic building facades. In 1869 Barye executed pairs of monumental lions and tigers in stone for the gates of the Palais de Longchamps at Marseilles.

During the Second Empire Barye was showered with distinctions. He received the Légion d'Honneur in 1833 and was promoted to chevalier in 1855. In 1868 he was elected to the Institut de France. He died in Paris in 1875, and after an elaborate funeral to signal his high artistic stature, Barye was buried at Père-Lachaise Cemetery.


Though an artist of multiple disciplines, painting, printmaking, etc., he was a master of anatomical form, whether human or animal. His work became a benchmark for animal sculpture and was responsible for improving the execution and stature of the depiction of animals in sculptural form. His work conveyed a powerful sense of grand scale blended with rich materialism, naturalistic detail, and broad rhythms. 

Barye's advocacy of good design and craftsmanship in serial work that was affordable to the middle class broadened options available to artists, artisans, and patrons alike. His example and success enhanced the modest reputation of animal and small-scale sculpture as "fine art" during the nineteenth century.

Bronze Model of a Seated Cat Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875)

    bottom of page