« Hunting dogs », a monumental cast iron sculpture by Camille Gaté

Cast iron

Plaster cast exhibited at the 1885 Salon des Artistes Français.

Bronze cast displayed at the 1886 Salon des Artistes Français.

Cast iron displayed at the 1889 World’s Fair, bronze medal.

Dimensions of the statue : H : 134 cm / 52" 3/4 ; W : 238 cm / 93" 3/4 ; D. 121 cm / 47" 5/8

Signed on the pedestal : « C. Gaté ».

After 1885.

Awarded a bronze medal at the 1889 World’s Fair, these Hunting dogs are the well-known work of a late 19th century artist, Camille Gaté.
This sculpture deeply left its mark on the writer Emile Hizelin, a friend of the sculptor’s who acquired a reduction mentioned in his short stories, and who also wrote a poem about it, published in A whole soul, ancient and new verses (1892):

“The two hunting dogs are tied in undergrowth.
One, on the damp earth, gives in to dreams,
The other is standing, watching, and suddenly he shudders
There he listens to some vague barking.
It's hunting! The hunt with its furious voices
The trembling horses fly, the horn sounds,
And all follow a pale and superb Amazon
On a golden whip clenching her fair fingers.
The hunt runs off like a gust.
In the eyes of the two dogs passed, triumphant,
The clear vision of the new kills,
They thought they saw the beast already torn,
And in the evening, in the courtyard, under red torches
The thousand teeth orgy of the hot spoils.”

Sketch after Hunting dogs, in "Notes on Camille Gaté", by Emile Hinzelin, in  Livre d'or de Rémy Belleau, 1900.

As the title suggests, these two idle bloodhounds will be called to relay other dogs to continue the hunt. Presumably, they are two Grands Bleus de Gascogne, hunting dogs from the South of France, employed in the royal packs since Henri IV for hunting wolves or game. It is a breed appreciated for its serene vivacity, its fine muscles which give it a certain nobility.

Hunting dogs, far larger than life, not only magnify a breed appreciated by the artist, but evoke the noble art of hunting, and the imaginary that is attached to it. Indeed, the year the artist dedicates himself to this sculpture, he also publishes a collection of fairy tales, attesting to his sensitivity turned towards the universe of the forest. It is the work of an artist deeply attached to his hometown, in the midst of the forests of La Perche, Nogent-le-Rotrou. The town with its picturesque medieval past, still dominated by the Chateau Saint-Jean, was undoubtedly a hotspot for hunting.

Edition of the Hunting dogs, at the Chateau Saint-Jean of Nogent-le-Rotrou, ancient postcard.

Camille Gaté, born in a family of modest tanners in 1856, participates in the family business without giving up his dreams.
In 1884, he began to sculpt realistic works, with portraits of the tannery workers, The Petit Maître and Woker Woman, two terracotta now preserved in the castle of Nogent-le-Rotrou, and quickly, animal subjects whith which he meets success. The rapidity of his success is striking, and one must attribute it to an exceptional artistic talent, suddenly revealed in a young man who was not destined for art.

Hunting dogs is one of his first sculptures, the plaster of which obtained an immediate success by being received at the Salon des Artistes Français of 1885. The success of the sculpture is confirmed the following year, where a bronze copy is showed again at the Salon. After this first success, he produced several other carved groups of dogs, which earned him, in 1888, the status of Officer of the Academy. It was in 1889, finally, that a  iron cast of Hunting dogs, the work that launched his career, brought him luck again and triumphed at the Paris World’s Fair.
Camille Gaté remains famous in his hometown, which dedicated an exhibition to him in 2016, but is also known for his statue of the poet Rémy Belleau, destroyed by the Germans during World War II. His works from 1889 to his death reveal a philosophical ambition, an optimistic vision for the human race, attached to both sensibility and reason. Thus, in 1889, he produced the Triumph of Philosophical Thought, a high relief in plaster, and two years before his death, a marble work poetically entitled Humanity in front of the infinite.

Camille Gaté in his workshop.

The success at the 1889 World’s Fair, which was the centenary of the French Revolution and the installation of the famous Eiffel Tower, says a lot about the merit of this sculpture.
The work is present in two places of Nogent-le-Rotrou, the Place de la République, and the garden of the Chateau Saint-Jean. The copy of the garden, however, is mounted on a different base. In Joinville-le-Vallage, a beautiful cast by Durenne and the Val d'Osne, dated 1953, was installed in the municipal park.
It is present throughout the world, notably in Argentina, in Mar del Plata in the province of Buenos Aires.

Plaza San Martin, Mar del Plata, Argentine.

Park in Joinville-le-Vallage.

Catalog of the sculptures, 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.

“Old Centaur teased by Eros”,
rare cast iron garden statue

"Old Centaur teased by Eros"

After the roman antique artwork from the I-IInd centuries
Former Borghese Collection
and now preserved at the Louvre Museum

Cast Iron statue, France, Second half of the 19th century

This statue, "Old Centaur teased by Eros", represents a centaur with its arm crossed, and his back twisted towards the back, exhibiting his prominent muscles. The movement of the creature's head shows the effort he makes to see who is sitting on his rump. Half-man half-horse, the centaur seems furious, while little Cupid distracts himself by pulling the centaur's hair on his head and back. Mischievous, the God of Love has tied the centaur's hands in his back, that the creature cannot struggle.

The reproduction of an antique artwork :

The "Old Centaur teased by Eros" would have been carved in marble at the imperial period by artists coming from Aphrodisias, an antique city of Asia Minor located in actual Turkey. The statue was rediscovered during the 17th century and entered the collection of Scipione Borghese, a passionate collector, whose antiquities were gathered mostly between 1607 and 1612 to adorn the Villa Pinciana. In 1807, Camille Borghese sold several hundreds of antique artworks - from which this statue belonged - to Napoleon, his brother-in-law, who wanted to show that his reign was a continuity of the Roman Empire. Thus is created the "Musée Napoléon" ("Napoleon Museum") where were exhibited this collection of exceptional pieces, including, besides this Centaur, major artworks as "The Borghese Gladiator", "The Sleeping Hermaphroditus", or even "The Borghese Vase".
Today, The "Old Centaur Teased by Eros", is kept at the Louvre Museum, into the splendid Salle des Caryatides.

A cast iron statue at the Industrial Revolution era :

Cast iron was a new material, born with the Industrial Revolution ; if it was used to make this statue, the latter yet continued on a tradition through the reproduction of an antique artwork from the I-IInd centuries. The tension between past and innovation reveals here all the Eclecticism of the 19th century.
The first Industrial Revolution began in England in the second half of the 18th century to slowly spread into Europe and North America from the 19th century to the first World War. During this time, progresses were made into urbanism, the metal became a fundamental material, massively used, and especially for constructions reserved for engineers like bridges, railway stations or even for factories buildings.

Cast iron, raw product of the blast furnace, comes out liquid of the crucible ; it can easily be poured into molds. That is why, after 1820, this material was used to make decorative elements, garden ornaments, fountains or statues. Cast iron is cheaper than bronze : this technic allowed a large diffusion of tough, high quality sculptures, often with monumental dimensions.

The success of the bronze editions in the middle of the 19th century provoked a profound shift for both sculptors and metalworkers. Achille Collas - the creator of the process of "réduction mécanique" which allows to enlarge or reduce the dimensions of an original artwork in order to reproduce it in metal - is often compared to Gutenberg. The taste for the metal reproduction of an original statue is confirmed by the advent of cast iron, a cheaper and simpler material.
Away from the Salons, this production responded to the bourgeois 'new incline for beautiful objects : it spreads into theaters, open galleries, rich flats, public places or enlighted art lovers' gardens, like was "Old Centaur teased by Eros" which testifies of a deep knowledge of antique artworks.

The Ponts des Arts
built between 1801 and 1804
with nine cast iron arches.
The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park
made out of cast iron and glass
for the 1851 World's Fair
Sainte-Geneviève library in Paris
built in stone and cast iron
by Henri Labrouste in 1851

Art foundries in the 19th century :

The cast iron artwork industries grew under the Second Empire and the IIIrd Republic to concentrate its activity in a couple of foundries, as the Val d'Osne foundry, the most important of France, the Durenne foundry, which largely contributed to the renown of French art foundries abroad, or even the Ferry-Capitain or Tusey industries.

Frequently, antique models - from the Louvre or the Palace of Versailles - or even artworks of contemporary sculptors like Mathurin Moreau, were reproduced.

To disseminate their production, foundries used different means. The National Exhibition of Industrial Products and then the World's Fairs exhibitions, gave a great opportunity to exhibit artworks and receive awards which really mattered into sales pitch. In 1851, the jury wrote in his report: "M. André, from the Val d'Osne […] exhibited a fountain of an admirable construction and molding. His alligator, his chimney, his frame of bed, presented a casting that was so perfect that we could hardly believe those objects had not received any retouching, but were just as out of the mold". He received a silver medal. Again, the Universal Exhibition of 1867 consecrated the Durenne foundry at an international scale.
The albums were the other important channel of the foundries. Those books, more and more expensive and thick, were given or sold by the foundry manager to his clients. Inside were engraved all informations regarding their collection. "Old Centaur teased by Cupid" appears so in a Val d'Osne catalog (n° 533).
The Tourny Fountain in Quebec,
sculptures by Mathurin Moreau, conception by Liénard.
Val d'Osne Foundry, 1857.
Fountain in the Place de la Concorde, Paris.
cast iron statue by Achille Valois.

The WALLACE Fountain

Charles-Auguste Lebourg (1829-1906)
Wallace fountain
After the model of 1872

Cast iron fountain painted green. The dome embellished with scales and topped with four sea monsters sculptures, from their open mouths streamed four rivers, symbolized by friezes of wavelets. It is supported by four caryatids draped in antique. They are based on a large octagonal pedestal with breakfronted scrolls topped with shells, alternating winding newts around Poseidon's trident.

Model of the second half of the 20th century.


The newspapers of that time related the craze of parisians when the Wallace fountains were installed :

"Not only did we queue, did we parked, did we pressed around these ingenious and beautiful fountains; not only small children drink with delight at these iron cups, that an old man, a passerby are waiting for [...] not only this inexhaustible source creates fraternization - less dangerous than cabaret - , but we see during mealtimes housewives carry jugs of fresh water ... "

"Notes and Impressions" political and literary journal, August 12, 1874.



The initiative of the generous philanthropist Richard Wallace (1818-1890, born Jackson)

It was said that this art collector was the illegitimate son of the wealthy Marquess of Hertford. In 1870 he became her only heir and devoted this fortune to his passion for the arts. The result is now in the Wallace Collection in London, after the donation of his wife, Lady Wallace. One can admire the masterpieces of 18th century french decorative arts.

"Series "Humanity Benefactor" Guerin Boutron chocolates : Richard Wallace.
Became famous through many philanthropic works. He endowed Paris fountains that bears his name."

But his passion for France does not stop in the field of arts. At the age of twenty years old, this Englishman moved to Paris and felt in love with both the capital and the Frenchwoman Julie-Amélie Charlotte Castelnau (1819-1897) known today as Lady Wallace. In Parisian literary salons, he meet the greatest artists of his time like Flaubert, Delacroix or the famous poet and art critic Baudelaire.
This generous and enlightened man used his money for the parisian for the first time during the siege of 1870. In 1872, he financed fifty Wallace fountains distributed all over the city, for the amount of 50,000 francs, a fortune at that time. Today there are 150 fountains in Paris, 50 in the french province and some in the world, especially in the Wallace Park of Lisburn (Northern Ireland) in front of the House Wallace (See picture).

The design of the Wallace fountains

The sculptor Charles-Auguste Lebourg (1829-1906) designed these fountains after a sketch by Richard Wallace (1818-1890). The four women are allegories of four vertues : kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety. If you look closely, although apparently similar, each one of them has a detail that makes her unique. They have something in commun : they all refers to the canons of academicism. This model is close to the caryatids from the antiquity, like in the Erechtheion of Athens Acropolis.
Although the subject refers to a classical iconography, the sculptor added a "je-ne-sais-quoi" which is charm. Indeed, when someone comes to the "Brasserie des quatre femmes" (Brasserie of the four women) to quench his thirst, he must thread his way between the silhouettes, before he can reach the precious water.

In the second half of the 19th century, hygienist theories had an impact on the Paris urbanization. Nature had to be brought back into the city and thus the Wallace fountains were painted in green, as an attempt to give the capital this color it sorely needed. The iconographic vocabulary revolves around the Water (ripples, newts and Poseidon), to emphasizes the presence of this pure and clean water.

For the realization of these fountains, the choice was cast iron, a modern material, convenient and affordable at the same time. It was the foundries of Val d'Osne who were the first to produce it (View picture below : Catalog foundries of Val d'Osne, Pl 517, 1900.).

Parisian fountains since 1874

Inspired by London's "drinking fountains", the first Wallace fountain was unveiled the 17th of August, 1872, on the Boulevard de la Villette. Parisians has just survived two major crises: the Siege from September 1870 to January 1871 and the Commune from March to May 1871. The population suffered from water shortages and these fountains were welcomed with fervour.

From the 1872's model till today :

At the begining, fountains were equipped with tin cups tied with a string. For obvious reasons of hygiene, since 1952 it was no longer the case.

Foundries of Val d'Osne closed their doors, it's another company (GHM) which continued the produce of a still fairly crafted version.

In the Paris of the 21th century the walker can pass by the "Millennium Fountain" also called "Fountains of 2000" or "Fontaine RADI1". This is a new version of the iconic Wallace fountain. Its installation follows a contest for the design of a new type of fountain called "à boire" (drinking).

Some of the 119 Wallaces fountains located in Paris nowadays, are colored in a Pop style.

Alongside the Morris column - which was also built in the same period - she forms an iconic duet in the Parisian landscape. Like in this photography taken in 1946 by the famous Robert Doisneau.

In the public's imagination, the green Wallace Fountain is inextricably linked with Paris ; the city and this public architecture is as inseparable as yellow taxi & New York or red phone box & London.