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Bust of Napoleon

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Achille Collas
French (1795 - 1859) Secondary

Antoine-Denis Chaudet
French (1763 - 1810) Primary

Maison Barbedienne

Bust of Napoleon

1838 - 1859

9 1/4 in. x 4 in. x 4 1/4 in. (23.5 cm x 10.16 cm x 10.8 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: W.510
Geography: Europe, France, Paris
Classification: Fine and Visual Arts; Sculptures
Culture/Nationality: French
Collection: Deanery Collection
Description: The bronze bust of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Deanery Collection at Bryn Mawr College is a small-scale reproduction of an official portrait of Napoleon by Antoine Denis Chaudet (1763-1810).
The original marble bust of Napoleon was created by Chaudet in 1804 and was widely reproduced as an official portrait type. Reproduction of the portrait was done on a large scale in Italy, under the direction of Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi (1777-1820). From 1807-1809 Baciocchi had over 1200 copies made by the Carrara workshops, which were under her control, for public display. Most of these original marble copies, as well as Chaudet’s original, were either destroyed by Napoleon’s successors or have been lost. The marble bust in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London might be a rare example of these Italian reproductions.
In addition to the Italian copies in marble, the Sèvres Porcelain Factory outside Paris produced three different sized reproductions in hard paste porcelain in 1805. Several of these porcelain replicas exist around the world in various museums, such as the National Museum in Cardiff (Wales, UK) and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, US).
The Maison Barbedienne, a commercial Parisian foundry owned by Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892), recreated Chaudet’s design in bronze, an example of which is the piece in the Bryn Mawr collection today. On the right side of the bust near the shoulder the letters “F. BARBEDIENNE FONDOUR” mark the piece as from the Maison Barbedienne foundry.
The Maison Barbedienne was able to produce this smaller replica of Chaudet’s design through Achille Collas’ (1795-1859) invention of the machine à rédure, a pantograph capable of reproducing three dimensional objects. Collas patented his device in 1837 and in 1838 he entered into an exclusive contract with Barbedienne to create faithful, small-scale reproductions of famous works of art. The bronze bust at Bryn Mawr is an example of their collaboration. In addition to the foundry’s mark, there is a small round stamp located on the lower left side on the back of the base that consists of words encircling a portrait in profile. The stamp reads “REDUCTIO[N] [ME]CANIQUE / A. COLLAS / [B]REVETE,” which indicates the use of Collas’ patented (Fr. breveté) machine. The portrait in the center most likely represents Collas, but could also possibly be Barbedienne.

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This object has the following keywords:
  • bronze - Refers to a broad range of alloys of copper, specifically any non-ferrous alloy of copper, tin, and zinc or other trace metals. Bronze was made before 3,000 BCE -- possibly as early as 10,000 BCE, although its common use in tools and decorative items is dated only in later artifacts. The proportions of copper and tin vary widely, from 70 to 95 percent copper in surviving ancient artifacts. Because of the copper base, bronze may be very malleable and easy to work. By the Middle Ages in Europe, it was recognized that using the metals in certain proportions could yield specific properties. Some modern bronzes contain no tin at all, substituting other metals such as aluminum, manganese, and even zinc. Historically, the term was used interchangeably with "latten." U.S. standard bronze is composed of 90% copper, 7% tin and 3% zinc. Ancient bronze alloys sometimes contained up to 14% tin.
  • busts - Representations of only the head and shoulders of a figure.
  • pantographs - Devices consisting of four strips of wood or some other material which are hinged together in a square so that they overlap and can be adjusted to the scale of the work being copied, enlarged, or reduced.
  • portraits
  • sculpture - Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Bust of Napoleon |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=6/5/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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