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Bronze Portrait of a Draft Horse
Isidore Jules Bonheur (France, 1827-1901)
Circa 1840s
Cast bronze mounted on a rectangular plinth atop a marble socle
14 1/2 x 12 1/2 (on base) inches 


A powerful yet sensitive casting of a draft horse by the master animalier, Isidore Jules Bonheur. The patina is a deep brown with small areas of darker brown, almost to black. The details are very finely executed. 


Isidore Bonheur was best known and the most distinguished of the 19th century French animalier sculptors. Isidore, the younger brother of Rosa Bonheur and older brother of Auguste, began his studies of painting initially with his father, who was friends with Francisco Goya. By 1848 he debuted at the Paris Salon having discontinued animal and landscape painting to concentrate on creating sculptures and in 1849, Bonheur enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He won medals at the Paris Salon in 1859 and did so again in 1865 and in 1869. After entering the Exposition Universelle 1855, he won the Gold Medal in 1889. In the 1870s exhibited in the London at the Royal Academy of Arts where he earned great prestige and won the coveted Medaille d’Or. After winning numerous other medals and prizes, Bonheur was awarded the Legion d' Honneur in 1895 and he was Knighted in Portugal, Spain and France. Bonheur continued exhibiting at the Paris Salon until 1899.


Many of his bronzes were fabricated at the foundry owned by Hippolyte Peyrol, Bonheur's brother-in-law by marriage to Isidore’s youngest sister Juliette Bonheur. The Peyrol casts for both Rosa and Isidore are exceptionally well executed which suggests a strong working relationship between the founder and sculptor. There is little doubt that Isidore Bonheur was an acute observer of nature; his animals were not 
anthropomorphized but modelled to catch movement or posture characteristics of the particular species he was sculpting. He achieved this most successfully with his sculptures of horses which are usually depicted as relaxed rather than spirited. These figures are among his most renowned works and his equestrian models became very popular, particularly among the British aristocracy.


An acute observer of nature, his sculptures reflect his commitment to the Realist school - with precise detailing of the movements of animals in their natural habitats. Ultimately, His naturalistic studies of animals are now some of the most highly sought after works by any of the animalier. He was possibly inspired by his many visits to the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.


Though Isidore Bonheur is mainly known for his small bronze groups, he created the monument of his sister Rosa at the Fountainbleau and sculpted the two stone lions at the steps of the Palais de Justice in Paris. Other large public sculptures can be found around Paris and his works of art are located in the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as well as numerous major institutions. 

Bronze Portrait of a Draft Horse- Isidore Jules Bonheur (France, 1827-1901)

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