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Pierre Cartellier, born on 22 December 1757, was a student of Charles-Antoine Bridan (1730-1805). Cartellier had an unpropitious beginning, having failed at his attempt to win the Prix de Rome and he never went to Italy; this was truly a handicap, especially during the Neoclassical era.
He found employment in the firms of private bronze founders then contributed to the decoration of the Panthéon (1792-93), namely, two reliefs: Strength and Prudence and Love of the Fatherland (destroyed). His sleek statue of Modesty (La Pudeur), exhibited in the Salon of 1801, won over Josephine, who ordered a marble version (1808; Amsterdam Historical Museum). Gérard Hubert points out the obvious source: the Capitoline Venus in the Museo Capitolino, Rome.
Further work by Cartellier in the Neoclassical style includes the lost, life-sized plaster statue of Aristides (1804; formerly in the Sénat) and an elegant Dance of the Spartan Maidens (1802; Louvre, Salle de Diane), which demonstrates Canova’s influence. The severe Neoclassical critic Quatremère de Quincy (1834) thought the Aristides could have been mistaken for a Greco-Roman work, owing to its artless pose, authentic costume and vérité de style. Over a portal of the Louvre colonnade one can see Cartellier’s Glory Distributing Crowns (1807) and he also contributed The Capitulation at Ulm on the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (1806-09), admired by Quatremère de Quincy. Subsequent Napoleonic commissions were completed by the sculptor and in 1810 he became a member of the Institut.
Cartellier was one of those artists who adapted to the needs of the Restoration after Napoleon’s fall. For the façade of the Hôtel des Invalides he carved an equestrian image of Louis XIV in relief and in the Place Royale at Reims he did a bronze statue of Louis XV. Cartellier’s statue of Minerva in marble (1818-22; Château de Versailles) marks a return to Neoclassicism. Cartellier contributed the bronze horse of the equestrian statue of Louis XIV in the Court of Honor at the Château de Versailles (1834; his student Louis-Messidor-Lebon Petitot did the figure of the king). Cartellier’s praying figure of Josephine is part of Josephine’s funerary monument (1814-25; SS. Pierre et Paul, Rueil-Malmaison). In addition, he did a bronze statue for the Tomb of Baron Dominque-Vivant Denon, the archaeologist who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt and later became his director of museums – and Cartellier’s admirer (1826; Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris). Cartellier had at least one critic, the Romantic sculptor David d’Angers, who thought his drapery was the weakest he had ever seen: “it has a metallic stiffness.” Cartellier died on 12 June 1831.
Hubert, Gérard. “Pierre Cartellier, sculpteur 1757-1831, sa vie et ses oeuvres, ses élèves.” Musées de France, no. 8 (October 1950): 222-224; Idem, “Pierre Cartellier statuaire: Oeuvres et documents inédits: Ancien Régime, Révolution, Consulat.” Bulletin de la Société de l’Histore de l’Art Français (1976): 313-329; Idem, “L’oeuvre de Pierre-Louis Cartellier sculpteur (1757-1831). Essai de catalogue raisonné.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 96 (1980): 1-43; West, Alison. From Pigalle to Préault: Neoclassicism and the Sublime in French Sculpture 1760-1840. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Hubert, Gérard, “Cartellier, Pierre.” From David to Ingres: Early 19th Century French Artists. The Grove Dictionary of Art Series. London and New York: Grove Art, 2000, pp. 43-44.
Submitted by Michael Worley, Ph.D, art researcher