‘La Nature Se Dévoilant Devant La Science’ – Nature Revealing Herself Before Science: A Very Fine Multipatinated Bronze Figure, by Louis Ernest Barrias, cast by Susses Freres.
Signed: ‘E.Barrias’, inscribed: ‘Susse Fres Edts Paris’ and with the Susses Freres Editeurs Paris Cachet’.
This alluring bronze figure is a finely cast example of Barrias’s most celebrated work, an homage to advances made in scientific exploration and a masterpiece of early art nouveau. The figure depicts a young woman, the allegory of Nature, removing her veil to reveal her face and bare breasts to the cold gaze of science.
The figure first appeared in white marble at the Paris Salon of 1893 as ‘La Nature mystérieuse et voilée se découvre devant la Science’ and was acquired by the faculty at l’Ecole de Médecine in Bordeaux. Barrias returned to the theme a few years later exhibiting a related sculpture at the 1899 Salon, simply titled ‘La Nature se dévoilant’. Following in the spirit of pioneers of polychromy such as Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier and Eugène Cornu this figure was carved using expensive and luxurious materials such as Algerian onyx for the drapery, lapis lazuli for the ribbon and malachite for the scarab. This figure is now in the collection of the Muse d’Orsay. A final version in white marble was made in 1902 and acquired by the École de Medicine in Paris.
The first bronze casts exhibited by Susse were shown in various sizes and to great critical acclaim at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Awarded a prestigious Grand Prix at the Liège Exhibition of 1905, the renowned bronzier Théodore Millet deemed the model a tour de force for the Susse firm and proclaimed it ‘the finest of the works exhibited’.