This beautiful, dynamic sculpture depicts the ancient Greek mythological figure of Hebe (Roman equivalent: Juventas), riding on the wings of her father Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter), who has transformed himself into an eagle. The piece was crafted in the late 19th Century by the French sculptor, Emile Louis Picault. Picault is well-known for his sculptures, which tend to be allegorical, patriotic, or mythological in their subject matter. His figures are often highly realistic, and invested with movement and vitality, as exemplified in this work.
Hebe — known in classical mythology as the cupbearer of the Gods, with the power to give eternal beauty — is pictured here in a dynamic pose, with her left arm raised, echoing her extended left leg. An elegant, sweeping curve is formed by the shape of her body, created by these outstretched limbs. Her right arm is bent at the elbow, and her right leg pushed back.
Hebe wears a small piece of sheer fabric wound around her body, revealing the beautiful shape of her body. This flies back, dramatically, in the wind. She casts her eyes downwards, off to the right, to the land below the clouds.
Zeus — God of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice, and ruler as King of the gods of Mount Olympos — is depicted as an eagle. The eagle rests on a heavy storm cloud, which spurts lightning bolts, whilst its wings form a kind of throne, upon which Hebe (Zeus’ daughter) sits.
A parchment scroll curls around the base of the sculpture, bearing the inscription: ‘Des Mysterieuses profondeurs elle apporte a l’homme l’étincelle divine’, along with the signature, ‘E. Picault’. The manufacturer’s mark, ‘E. Colinage Paris’ is stamped beside the scroll.