Auguste Clésinger  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Auguste Clésinger (Jean-Baptiste Auguste Clésinger; 22 October 1814 – 5 January 1883) was a 19th-century French sculptor and painter. He is perhaps best-known for Woman Bitten by a Snake.



Auguste Clésinger was born in Besançon, in the Doubs department of France. His father, Georges-Philippe, was a sculptor and trained Auguste in art. Auguste first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1843 with a bust of vicomte Jules de Valdahon and last exhibited there in 1864. At the 1847 Salon, he created a sensation with his Woman bitten by a serpent, produced from life-casts from his model Apollonie Sabatier (the pose being particularly suitable for such a method), thus reinforcing the scandal with an erotic dimension. Apppolonie Sabatier was a salonnière and the mistress of Charles Baudelaire and others. The sculpture's beauty was praised by Théophile Gautier:

"Clésinger has resolved this problem of making beauty without cuteness, without affectation, without mannerism, with a head and a body of our own time, in which can be recognised his mistress if she is beautiful"

Clésinger also portrayed Sabatier as herself, in an 1847 marble sculpture now in the Musée d'Orsay.

He produced busts of Rachel Félix and of Théophile Gautier, and a statue of Louise of Savoy (now in the Jardin du Luxembourg). He received the knight's cross of the Légion d'honneur in 1849 and rose to an officer of the order in 1864. In 1847, he married George Sand's daughter, Solange Dudevant. In 1849, the couple had a daughter, Jeanne, nicknamed Nini, who died in 1855 shortly after her parents' separation.

At the death of the composer-pianist Frédéric Chopin on 17 October 1849, Clésinger made Chopin's death mask and a cast of his hands. He also sculpted, in 1850, the white marble funerary monument of Euterpe, the muse of music, for Chopin's grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris.

Clésinger died in Paris on 5 January 1883. He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery (division 10). His heir was his model and mistress Berthe de Courrière.

Selected works

Quelques œuvres

Art biblique

Sculptures bibliques en taille réelles exposées dans les chapelles annexes de l'Église de la Madeleine de Besançon des : Chemin de croix, Passion du Christ, Mise au tombeau, Résurrection, Ascension du Christ.

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