‘Ulysses Bending His Bow’ (also known as ‘Ulysse tendant l’arc dont Pénélope doit être le prix’) is one of the most admired French sculptures of the Neoclassical age of the 18th Century. It was first completed in 1715 by Jacques Bousseau (1681-1740), and is now displayed at the Louvre in Paris. Bousseau used the work as his admission piece to the French Royal Academy, and it was this sculpture that launched his career and resulted in his being named official ‘sculpteur du roi’ (sculptor to the King).
The present sculpture is an exceptional and high quality copy of the original marble work. It faithfully renders the sense of movement, heroism and drama inherent in the original, while retaining the strict proportionality and harmonious elements common to all Neoclassical sculpture.
The sculpture shows the mythological hero Ulysses, or Odysseus, from the Ancient Greek poet Homer’s tale ‘The Odyssey’. It recounts the moment in the story when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, reveals himself to his wife Penelope by firing an arrow through twelve rings, something which none of Penelope’s other potential suitors had been able to achieve.
The heroic figure – a symbol of masculine skill and strength and renowned for his intellectual brilliance – is shown, muscles flexed, bending his bow in a dramatic pose. He leans against the stump of a tree, and stands on a naturalistic square-form base, with a quiver of arrows by his feet.
The sculpture is crafted in bronze and exhibits an exquisite rich brown patina, with subtle surface highlights throughout, such as to Ulysses’ hair and drapery.