French Sculpture 1825-1850


Arc de Triumphe

When the time came in 1833 to complete Napoleon's unfinished Arc de Triumphe, Louis-Philippe saw an opportunity to demonstrate that the new government would offer something to every segment of the French people. Francois Rude (1784-1855), deeply patriotic and devoted to Napoleon, was commissioned to complete one of the four groups on the arch: 'The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792'. Rude's talent had been noticed at an early age by the director of the local academy of design in Dijon. This provided him with an introduction to Paris and another native of Dijon, Napoleon's Superintendent of Arts. Rude entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1809 and won the Prix de Rome in 1812. In 'The Departure,' he raised the subject of the French people defending the Republic to one of mythic splendor. The volunteers surge forth, inspired by the winged Liberty above them. The huge relief so completely embodied the partiotic zeal of the French that it came to be known as the Marseillaise, after the Revolutionary song adopted by France as its national anthem. In fact, Rude's father, a locksmith, had been among those volunteers and presented his eight-year-old son for enrollment in a children's brigade of volunteers. Despite its great public acclaim, however, 'The Departure' failed to give Rude the artistic honors he deserved. He eventually found himself more and more in opposition to the regime, and his later works were direct expressions of his Bonapartist political beliefs.

The Departure of the Volunteers in 1792, 1833-36


Study for the head of Liberty


Back to Sculpture and Painting