Mercury Tying His Sandal – Jean Baptiste Pigalle

Pigalle was one of the most masculine of the eighteenth-century sculptors and in spirit belongs more to the days of Louis XIV than to the less grandiloquent time of that monarch’s successor. Pigalle had great influence on the next generation of sculptors and is considered to rank among the most eminent artists of France, although scarcely of the stature of Houdon, whose position Pigalle’s own somewhat paralleled in an earlier day. This terracotta shows his strength and facility and betrays as well how much nearer his sympathies were to the exuberance of Baroque art than to the restrained classicism which began to appear in sculpture toward the middle of the eighteenth century. This Mercury Tying his Sandal is the first sketch for the marble of the same subject executed by Pigalle as his “diploma piece” on his reception into the Academy in 1751, and now in the Louvre. The terracotta model the sculptor bequeathed to his son, by whom it was presented to a Registrar of the Tribunal of the Revolution, whose family retained it until 1901, when it passed into the hands of the Comte de Bryas. From this source it was obtained by Mr. Altman. The figure is mentioned frequently in works of reference on Pigalle.