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Henri Michel Chapu

Henri-Michel-Antoine Chapu (1833–1891) was a French sculptor renowned for his nuanced expressions of the Neoclassical tradition, notably through allegorical works. Born in Le Mée, France, Chapu’s talents were recognized early on, leading to his education at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His career saw a significant upturn after he won the Prix de Rome in 1855, which afforded him five years of study in Italy. His notable works, “Mercury” (1861) and “Jeanne d’Arc” (1870), showcasing Joan of Arc as a peasant, won him early acclaim and numerous commissions followed.

Chapu’s contributions include:
– “La Moisson” (The Harvest), a piece held in both plaster and marble forms, with the marble version located in the Paris Hôtel de Ville and the plaster version in the Petit Palais.
– “La Cantate” (The Cantata), situated on the façade of the Opéra Garnier in Paris, is another testament to his skill.
– The “Four Seasons” statues, created for the façade of the department store Au Printemps, following a commission for the store’s redesign after a fire.
– Among his allegorical works is “Painting,” displayed in the Palais Galliera, alongside works by other artists to represent various arts.
– Chapu also crafted various medallions and sculptures for the Hotel Sédille, depicting artistic and poetic themes.
– His religious sculptures include statues of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois and Saint Genevieve, originally commissioned for the Panthéon and later moved to Arras Cathedral.
– The “Monument aux morts de 1870” in Beaune cemetery, featuring his composition “la Jeunesse,” honors those who died in the 1870 conflict.
– Statues of Pluto and Proserpine for the Chateau de Chantilly and a monument to Jean-François Millet in Cherbourg, completed by Jean-Ernest Bouteiller following Chapu’s death, showcase his historical and mythological interests.

Chapu’s work remains significant for its blend of classical grace and a nuanced approach to allegory and naturalism, echoing the broader trends of French sculpture in the late 19th century while maintaining a distinct, personal style. His contributions are celebrated not just in France but also in the form of reproductions and smaller versions of his works.

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