Silenus with two children by Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834)
Our group, depicting Silenus and two children to whom he is offering wine and grape, was modeled early in his career in 1786, when he is just twenty-seven years old and still a student at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. This piece coincides with the opening of a crucial decade in Marin’s career during the 1790’s, where he begins to emerge as a sculptor affirming his own identity, instead of just a simple “student of Clodion”. He slowly shifts towards a soft neo-classicism, sculpting characters with more unassuming expressions, with understated hair and drapes, and poised attitudes. Modeled with exuberance, clay radiates incandescent effects emphasizing the various textures in a virtuoso fashion; the softness of skin, the paw’s fur, the hair with small curls. Marin was, with Clodion, the only artist who mastered such iconographic creativity and technique. This work testifies to his prodigious talent in rendering naturalist depiction. With this refined terra cotta, our sculptor reveals himself as the prodigious stylist about to affirm himself as one of the most important artists of his era.
Our sculpture, truly intended for enlightened amateurs, was included in the sale of the « Precious collection of paintings of the three schools, belonging to Citizen La Fontaine, artist and merchant » (« Collection précieuse de tableaux des trois écoles, appartenans au Citoyen La Fontaine, artiste et négociant »), on February 22, 1798. This Citizen La Fontaine is none other than Pierre-Joseph Lafontaine (1758-1835), Belgium painter, member of the Royal Academy of Painting in Paris, and a protégé of Greuze and Denon. Since the Revolution kept him from pursuing an official career, he established himself as painting merchant, and worked for the French museums.