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Bronze Miniature Barnyard Scene (Cow, Sheep & Goat)
Christophe Fratin (France, 1801-1864)
Sand cast bronze
5 3/4 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches


Highly refined and sensitively modeled miniature bronze representing a small herd of cattle, sheep and cattle on the terrace. Despite its small size, this bronze offers a complete view of a small herd of livestock: a bull is lying in a landscape near a sheep and a goat climbing a tree above a rocky mound. Here we find the skillful hand of the animalier sculptor Christophe Fratin  (French, 1801-1864), immensely famous in the 19th century for his thoughtfully crafted animal subjects as well as for his humorous anthropomorphic scenes. Here on a small terrace, the artist with great mastery and realism describes a rural scene where the three animals have an attitude close to that in which we could meet them in nature. The sand cast fabrication and the carving are of very fine quality. Fratin has been able to render the texture of the animals' fur, the details are finely modeled in this miniature work. The superb patina is a warm dark to slightly golden brown. The bronze is signed on the terrace at the foot of the rocky mound with the famous signature of Fratin including his trademarked inverted "N." 


Christophe Fratin, a native of Metz, first apprenticed with his taxidermist father until 1821, after which he shifted to a career in sculpture. Fratin was a highly skilled artist and one of the first of the French sculptors, along with Antoine Louis Barye, to successfully portray animals in bronze. His understanding of animal anatomy as well as their natural actions and poses infuse his bronzes with a life-like realism. Most of his animal subjects were modeled as what they would have looked like in their natural environment as opposed to the over-fed zoo animals that were created by so many other artists. Fratin's true understanding of animal anatomy and form came from his early experiences helping his father with his taxidermy business. 
In Metz, he studied with sculptor Charles Augustin Pioche (1762-1839), until he tired of the Romantic style of the day. Afterwards, he went to Paris to work in the studio of Théodore Gericault, the only master he listed in the entries for his works in the Salon catalogues of the 1860s. In the Salon of 1831, he made his debut with wax models of a thoroughbred horse and several dogs, ushering in with another debutant, Antoine-Louis Barye, the golden age of animalier sculpture.


Though never as famous as Barye, Fratin enjoyed greater professional and commercial success than many of his fellow animalier sculptors during the nineteenth century. He received several commissions for public sculpture in Paris and in the United States; a bronze group of two eagles and their prey in Central Park since 1863, is the oldest sculpture in any park in New York City. The French government also commissioned small works that were deposited in numerous provincial museums.
Fratin's animal bronzes were very popular throughout Europe as well as America and England. Fratin's work was highly romantic without the dramatic and violent treatment that Barye could so successfully portray. Fratin executed his many subjects, always capturing their activities in flight or in motion with their flowing manes and tails. His ability to capture an animal in full flight, or at the exact moment a predator catches its prey, remains unmatched by any artist from any time. His small-scale sculptures were produced in bronze, terracotta, plaster, and even faience. Functional objects (platters and cane heads, for example) were produced as well as "pure" sculpture with the English market particularly favoring Fratin's work.
Fratin's public success and critical reputation owed much to his sales at public auction, a means of direct marketing that he used more frequently than most of his colleagues. Beginning in 1849, Fratin held at least one sale in Paris almost every year that was reviewed in the art journals.
Fratin achieved immense artistic acclaim through his very personal and very popular works of art due to their appeal to middle-class interests. His most lasting influence is due to his subtle expressiveness, vigorous rendering, and high-quality foundry work. His loose, free and sketchy modeling techniques ably illustrate his imaginative mind and sense of humor.
Fratin holds an important position amongst “Les Animaliers.” His style is unique and distinctive, with attention paid to the surface texture and less importance placed on anatomical detail. Above all Fratin was a romanticist, evoking mood through both style and subject.
Metz, France
Lyon, France
Nimes, France
Louvre Museum, Paris
The Wallace Collection, London, England
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 
The Peabody Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
The Eisler Collection, Vienna, Austria


Miniature Barnyard Scene of a Bull, Sheep & Goat-Christophe Fratin (1801-1864)

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