Pierre Jules MÍne


(French, 1810-1879)

One of the most prominent French animal sculptors of the 19th century. MÍne is today the sculptor most associated with and typical of the Animalier School as a whole. Although one or two of MÍneís earlier works show the romantic influence of Barye (the ďTiger and AlligatorĒ for example), creating sculpture of animals directly from nature, unposed and very much alive. His subjects are captured in a fleeting movement, picturesque in every detail. MÍneís animals are often individualized portraits with ďhumanizedĒ personalitiesóin many cases one knows their actual names.

Pierre-Jules MÍne was born in Paris on March 25, 1810 , the son of a prosperous metal-turner. His father trained him in metal-working techniques and the boy quickly put them together with his own natural talent for drawing and began creating small sculptures. The young MÍne never attended any of the well-known schools and seems to have been largely self-taught as an artist, though he received some training from sculptor Renť Compaire. After his marriage at age 22, MÍne, like many of the other famous 19th century sculptors, including Barye, Dalou, and Rodin, began his career as an ornamiste, making ornamental models for porcelain manufacturers, creating clock decorations, and doing some small commercial bronzes.

An astute businessman, in 1837 MÍne established the first of what would be a series of foundries to cast his sculptures. The following year, he made his debut at the Paris Salon with a piece called Dog and Fox. Two years later, he showed several pieces there, including Horse Attacked by a Wolf . From that point on, he regularly exhibited at the Salon, eventually winning four awards: a 2nd class medal in 1848, a first-class in 1852 and 1861, and a third class in 1855. He was extremely popular in England as well as France, winning medals at the London Exhibitions of 1855 and 1861.

One English review in 1851 praised him ďfor the perfection in modelling the figures of animals and for the truth and beauty of his representations.Ē  In 1861, his reputation was secured by his induction into the Legion d'Honneur. To some extent, the road to his success had been cleared for him by his friend and fellow sculptor, Antoine-Louis Barye. Fourteen years older, Barye had had to struggle for both critical and public success when he began exhibiting his naturalistic animals in the 1820s and early 1830s. The term les animaliers was originally conceived by critics as a slur on Barye's work which departed from classical and academic norms. But MÍne rapidly became the most successful and popular animalier of his time; art expert James Mackay suggests, ďMÍne is perhaps, after Barye, the most widely known of the Animaliers and the sculptor whose work, more than any others, set the standard for the Animalier schoolĒ.

MÍne's work captured the more delicate side of nature, most often concerning itself with domestic animals in tranquility and specializing in horses and dogs. Like another extremely popular animalier, Rosa Bonheur, MÍne tended to work in the juste milieu, an artistic method which blended romantic and naturalistic elements while retaining some traditional conventions, thus rendering the work more palatable to conservative tastes.

Toward the end of his life, MÍne taught his son-in-law, Auguste Cain, who was also an animalier, how to manage his foundries. Subsequently, Cain continued to cast MÍne's works for twelve years after his death, turning out the sort of flawless pieces upon which his father-in-law and mentor had always insisted. In 1892, when Cain died, the last of MÍne's foundries was closed and the remainder of his models sold to the Susse Freres foundry, which continued to cast MÍne's statues with the foundry seal impressed into them well into the twentieth century. Today, examples of MÍne's work reside in venues around the world, including museums such as the Ashmolean, the Louvre, the Metropolitan, and the R.W. Norton Art Gallery.

The Falconer
30" x 30" x 12"

6" x 5" x 12.75"