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Stouf, born in Paris on January 5, 1742, was one of the many students of Guillaume II Coustou (1716-1777). By 1770, which coincided with the first phase of neoclassicism, Stouf found himself in Rome, and fell under the spell of Greco-Roman sculpture. He went through the customary rigors of academic training and was accepted (agrée) in 1784, then became a full member only a year later with The Death of Abel (Louvre); the arresting pose of this crumpled up figure may well have influenced Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Bara, done in 1794 (Musée Calvet, Avignon). Early on, Stouf joined fellow sculptors Pierre Julien (1731-1804) and Claude Dejoux (1732-1816) in the gardens of the Château de Betz where he executed Castor and Pollux and A Sleeping Woman (all lost).
Scherf (2000) points out that a terracotta group by Stouf in the Detroit Institute of Arts has been identified as the Hercules Fighting the Centaurs, exhibited in the Salon of 1785. One royal commission was a statue of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Salon of 1787; still in the Hôpital Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris) and for a pendentive in the Panthéon, Stouf was requested to carve a stone bas-relief titled History (1792-93). The sculptor’s picturesque and striking terracotta, A Woman Frightened by a Thunderclap that Has Just Shattered a Tree Beside Her features expressive billowing drapery.
The French government commissioned a statue of Michel de Montaigne (Salon of 1800), which is an outstanding example of neoclassicism. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has Stouf’s statue of the composer André Grétry (1804), which formerly stood in the Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique. Stouf also executed a Bust of Rubens (Ecole du Louvre) in 1810 and he even took part in the neo-Gothic movement during the restoration with his statue of Abbot Suger, the creator of Gothic architecture in Saint Denis (Salon of 1817; Abbey of St. Bertin, Saint-Omer). Stouf died on 30 June 1826.
Draper, James David. “A Statue of the Composer Grétry by Jean-Baptiste Stouf.” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (1969-70): 377-378; Scherf, Guilhem, in La Révolution française et l’Europe. Exh. cat. Paris: Grand Palais, 1989); Idem, “Stouf, Jean-Baptiste,” in From David to Ingres: Early 19th Century French Artists. The Grove Dictionary of Art series. London and New York: Grove Art, 2000, p. 378; Playing with Fire: European Terra-Cotta Models, 1740-1840. Exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum, 2004.
Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.