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French neoclassical sculptor Bosio (19 March 1768 - 29 July 1845), born in Monaco, from a Corsican family, studied in the studio of Augustin Pajou (1738-1809) in Paris, however, he was told never to come back after he was overheard criticizing his master’s latest works in front of admiring visitors. Bosio headed for Italy where he spent fifteen years. He met Lorenzo Bartolini, the leading sculptor of the day, and many other celebrities. The archaeologist who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt and later became his director of museums, Baron Dominique-Vivant Denon called Bosio one of the most subtle and astonishing of sculptors. Back in Paris in 1808, Bosio worked on the Vendôme Column and did portraits of Josephine and Napoleon. Apparently his youthful indiscretion had been forgotten because Bosio was appointed professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and he was also a member of the Institut and named chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur: in other words, he could not have been more successful.
A few critical reviews of Bosio’s works have survived. M.S. Delpech, in the Mercure de France (October-December 1812) admired the simple and natural attitude of his figure of Aristeus (Louvre). He found a suppleness in the overall movement yet he criticized the lower part of the torso and mentioned how the left hand was too large. The same writer liked the graceful Cupid, a lost plaster statue (1808), except for the “stiff movement.” Josephine immediately ordered a marble copy (1812; in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg) On Bosio’s Hercules in the Tuilleries (1814), the Mercure de France in 1815 thought the pose was a bit too academic. (David d’Angers called it “wooden.”) The inexpressive head contrasted with the “tormented” musculature of the rest of the body. But to conclude, the writer was happy with the sculptor’s more severe and energetic mode since formerly he had executed only graceful figures. This conformed to the taste of the times, when monumental, overly muscular, neo-Baroque figures were in vogue. Bosio continued the graceful mode with his Hyacinth (Salon of 1817) and much later with the Nymph Salamacis (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal). The Neoclassical theorist Delécluze valued this work above the Venus de Milo, “for its grace, youth, and beauty of form, for its excellence in design.” Auguste Jal, in L’Artiste (1837) contrasted Bosio’s naturalism with Canova’s idealism in his comparison of the two artists’ busts of Napoleon. Jean Gigoux (1885) called Bosio an enfant terrible but regretted that the sculptor lost the vigor of his youth later on. He also accused him of being anti-intellectual: “He never opened a book in his life.”
Bosio, given the title of Baron Bosio, became court sculptor under Louis XVIII in 1816. There is a portrait bust of Louis XVIII in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille. Then followed images of past monarchs: an equestrian statue of Louis XIV for the Place des Victoires (1822), the charming Henri IV as a Child (Salon of 1824; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau; the Louvre has a bronze version), and a kneeling statue of Louis XVI for the Chapelle Expiatoire in Paris (1825). Bosio was involved with the plaster casts of the Horses of St. Mark’s in Venice (1827) since the originals were no longer on top of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. The Metropolitan Museum has a late work: Queen Marie-Amélie, from 1841. For David d’Angers, Bosio did excellent work, especially of the human figure, but he lacked soul. His models were “devoid of thought.”
L. Barbarin. Etude sur Bosio; sa vie et son oeuvre. Imprimerie de Monaco, 1910; Hubert, Gérard. Les sculpteurs italiens en France sous la Révolution, l’Empire et la Restauration, 1790-1830 (Paris: 1964); Cooper, Jeremy. Nineteenth-century Romantic Bronzes: French, English and American Bronzes 1830-1915. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975, pp. 13-15; Hubert, Gérard. “François-Joseph Bosio, sculpteur monégasque.” An. Monégasque 11 (1985): 82-119; Pinatel, Christiane. “Les moulages des chevaux de Saint-Marc dans l’histoire.” Revue du Louvre 31 (1982): 1-14.
Submitted by Michael Worley, Ph.D, art researcher