ABOUT THE BUSTS: TECHNIQUES, MATERIALS AND OTHER ASPECTS.

 

UNBAKED CLAY BUSTS

Literature mentions the existence of 34 to 45 unbaked clay busts created by Daumier around 1832 (Jean Cherpin, “Daumier et la Sculpture”, Paris 1979). Because of their fragility, some of them may have been destroyed over the years. At this point in time, however, definite proof is only available of 36 restored clay busts presently part of the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

 

It is generally believed that Daumier created these busts to serve as a model for similar lithographs. The first confirmation about their existence appeared on April 26, 1832 in ”La Caricature”. Goncourt indicated in 1853 that Charles Philipon, the director of  “La Caricature” and “Le Charivari” had purchased these clay sculptures from Daumier directly around 1833. According to Gavarni (Cherpin, p. 87) Philipon had paid 15 Francs for each clay bust. In 1862, Madame Philipon inherited the entire collection. She lent ten out of 39 (!) sculptures to the 1878 Durand-Ruel retrospective Daumier exhibition in Paris (exhibit nr. 236). Exhibit nr. 242 shows a frame containing six photographs with a total of 34 busts. 36 busts remained in the family estate (Eugène and Paul Philipon) until 1927 (possibly until 1925 as explained later). Up to the present, it has still unclear where the missing busts have remained.

 

Up to 1969 (see J. Wasserman) it was assumed that on Jan. 31, 1927 Maurice Le Garrec had purchased the collection of 36 busts from Eugène and Paul Philipon for Galerie Sagot-Le Garrec in Paris for 90’000 Francs. However, Cherpin in 1979 on p. 139 proposed for the first time that this purchase had already taken place two years earlier in 1925. Our research based on the 1998 publication of the Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie in Paris, which had acquired the archives of Sagot-Le Garrec (1876-1967), shows that indeed the date of 1925 seems to be correct (see also Le Foyer, “Daumier au Palais de Justice, p. 163). Le Garrec had the sculptures restored and subsequently moulds were prepared for bronze casting by Fix-Masseau sometime between 1927 and 1930. According to Jeanne L. Wasserman (“Daumier Sculpture”, Fogg Art Museum, 1969, p. 13), he most likely applied a “gelatine-mould technique”. In 1980, the Musée d’Orsay acquired the original clay collection (financed by donations from the Fondation L. & M. David-Weill) from the heirs of Maurice Le Garrec’s widow, Mme Berthe Le Garrec, who had died in 1945. The busts were restored to their assumed original state and exhibited for the first time in 2005.

 

BURNED CLAY REPRODUCTION 

Around 1927, Maurice Le Garrec planned a separate edition of seven coloured “terre cuite” models (polychrome terracotta / coloured baked clay) from the 36 original busts based on the Fix-Masseau moulds in his possession. Each piece shows on the inside the marking “M. Le Garrec Paris” as well as the corresponding number (1/7 or simply the number 7 etc.). The first six samples of this edition were sent by J.C. Romand to the 1969 Fogg Art Museum’s Daumier Exhibition. Occasionally, like in the case of DR9604 at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, N.J., or DR9608 at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Germany, a number may be missing. Some of the sculptures are coloured, while others remained in their original uncoloured state. These reproduced busts are slightly smaller in size than the original clay models at the Orsay (see J.C. Romand, “Daumier Sculpteur”, Sagot-Le Garrec, 1979, introduction). They had initially been offered to Museums and special collectors who, however, showed only little interest. At present (2012) four almost complete sets can still been seen in various Museums (Carnavalet Paris, Assemblée Nationale Paris, Zimmerli Art Museum Rutgers, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Germany), while the remaining busts were dispersed over the years. It seems that the editor, Sagot-Le Garrec, had sold still in 2008 single copies from his 1927 production to the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, Germany.

 

Questions remain about the fact that some of the busts in certain Museums are made of plaster and not of baked clay as originally stated by Romand and by Gobin (“Daumier Sculpteur”, Geneva 1952). Unfortunately, we were not able to identify the location of each of the seven reproduction busts for the total of 36 pieces. Hopefully this missing information will one day be added. It seems that some of the initially complete collections had been divided up in order to be sold to various private collectors.

 

Even more enigmatic: in one case, DR9617, the number “5” of a burned clay reproduction appears at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe as well as in the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, USA (purchased in 2001). Both sculptures are painted terracotta editions. A similar observation can be made in the case of DR9626, where the number “7” cast can be found at the Musée Carnavalet in Paris as well as in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Further research in the matter seems advisable.

 

An explanation was offered by Wasserman (p. 40), referring to an observation made by Mme Philippe Garcin in 1959, who stated that reproduction copies of Daumier’s busts had already been seen in 1850 (see “Aesculape”, 1959, p. 24). The Beaux-Arts edition of 1901 also mentions under lot 493 a number of  “reproductions of coloured clay (terres crues coloriées) after Daumier, on loan from the Armand Dayot collection”. It may well be - but there is no proof - that some of these sculptures had ended up in today’s collections. This might explain the use of the same number for a different material (plaster or clay) than the one used by the original Le Garrec edition, which was made from coloured, baked clay only. This might be the reason why some collections contain un-coloured clay casts as well as coloured and un-coloured plaster sculptures. Further research would be helpful to clarify these questions in the future.

 

BRONZE BY BARBEDIENNE

After the purchase of the 36 clay busts in 1925 (respectively in 1927), Maurice Le Garrec also produced as of 1929 bronze busts in an edition of 25 or 30 each. They were marked “M.L.G.” (for Maurice Le Garrec) on the rear lower left or on the shoulder (stamped on wax positive) and cold stamped in an inscribed circle “1/30” to “30/30” (or respectively “1/25” to “25/25”) on the interior lower left rear. Additionally, one would find a cold stamp showing the word: “BRONZE”. It should be noted that the location of the incised numbers/marks might have differed in some of the bronze casts. Only the wax positive cachets are found always at the same location of a bronze (with the exception of DR9614 mentioned below). The 36 busts, which were cast by the Barbedienne foundry between 1929 and 1952, were sold on a subscription basis as numbered and stamped editions. According to Wasserman’s calculation (p. 14), a total of 1058 bronze casts was produced of the 36 busts, applying the lost wax process. As we know from Gobin, it was Fix-Masseau who had produced the plaster retainer moulds, which were used by the Barbedienne foundry to create this large number of bronze busts. The “founder’s job would have been to assemble a retainer mould over a plaster model and pour a new gelatine negative” (Wasserman, p. 16).

 

For a yet unknown reason, some of the bronze sculptures had been numbered twice at different places. Occasionally, an additional “production number”, which had nothing to do with the above edition number, was added. The Barbedienne bronzes differed in their colour of patina between dark brown, dark green and black. It should be noted that NONE of the 36 bronze busts made by Barbedienne or later by Valsuani carries Daumier’s signature or monogram, while surmoulages (copies) quite often show either the full name of Daumier or the monogram “h.D” (in wax positive).

 

<a href="glossar.php?id=107">Click here</a>  to see an example where in the case of a bust the editor’s stamp (M.L.G in wax positive) and the word “BRONZE” (cold stamped) are placed. Further details about the numbering can be found <a href="glossar.php?id=108"> in this photo</a>. The Barbedienne edition shows in a circle two numbers usually inside the cast. The numbers are separated by a slash, for example 7/25, and were added by hand with a sharp tool into the cold bronze surface. Note that the numbers (cold stamped) are occasionally not only on the inside of the bust but also on the back of the base. Sometimes additional multi-digit numbers or letters have been added at varying places like on the rim or on the rear base. Occasionally, collectors incised their own collector’s mark. As mentioned above, in many cases the cold stamped “BRONZE” mark may be missing below the M.L.G mark. According to French law dating back to March 8, 1935 the foundries were obliged to add to each sculpture the word “BRONZE”. Unfortunately apart from Susse, and occasionally Barbedienne very fewfoundries followed this new legislation.

 

One can sporadically observe inconsistencies concerning the foundry stamps as well as the word “BRONZE”. In the case of the bust “Gallois” (DR 9614) we detected that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. describes their own sculpture numbered 3/25 as follows: “Stamped in the wax positive on lower right shoulder, in incised circle: M.L.G [Maurice Le Garrec]; cold-stamped on bottom rim at right: 2199-1; cold-stamped inside, in incised circle: 3/25”. The usual incision “BRONZE” is missing (as happened frequently in other cases). The same “Gallois” bust in a German private collection numbered 10/25, however, shows the wax positive “M.L.G” stamp not on the lower right shoulder (as described by the NGA), but at the rear lower rim of the sculpture (<a href="glossar.php?id=109">see photo</a>). It remains unclear how it was possible to have the original wax positive stamp located at two different places on the bust.

 

The first 12 busts were offered on a subscription basis between 1929 and 1930. These were: Barthe, Delessert, Dupin, Fruchard, Fulchiron, Ganneron, Kératry, Podenas, Prunelle, Royer-Collard, Viennet and Philipon. Most of the remaining bronzes were produced by Barbedienne until 1948; the last bronze was delivered in 1952, shortly before the foundry closed its doors in 1953.

 

THE BARBEDIENNE FOUNDRY (initially specialized in sand cast process; in case of the busts, however, lost wax process)

Ferdinand Barbedienne was born in 1810 in Saint-Martin-du-Fresnay in the Calvados region of France. He moved to Paris in 1833 where he established a paper shop in rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. Together with his partner, Achille Collas, who had invented a machine to copy bronze statuettes in 1839, they experienced a notable success with the reduced bronze copy of a “Venus de Milo”. From 1848 on, Barbedienne became one of the most important foundries in town, exhibiting their sculptures in Paris and London. Around the late 1860s, F. Barbedienne was regularly named president of the French bronze sculpture foundries association. In 1875, he purchased 125 Barye plasters including their reproduction rights and expanded his business to the UK, the USA, Germany and Belgium (about 1918). In 1895, Barbedienne cast the first group of Rodin’s “Bourgeois de Calais”. Between 1929 and 1952, he held the exclusive rights to cast Daumier’s busts in an edition of 25 respectively 30 pieces, whereby the foundry used the lost wax process.

 

BRONZE BY VALSUANI

An additional bronze edition of the busts was realised between 1953 and 1965 (known as 2nd additional series after the Barbedienne bronzes). They were marked on the outside: LG (for Madame Le Garrec), Mme H. (for Madame Heuyer) and C (for Madame Cordier), the wife and daughters of Maurice Le Garrec. The bronzes were stamped in the lower back with the cachet "Cire perdue, C. Valsuani". The M.L.G. mark (for Maurice Le Garrec) can be seen at the same location. It had been added into the soft wax surface. Some of the stamps that are used to identify the Valsuani edition of the busts reverting to Mme H. for example will show an incised monogram of her name. It had not been added onto the wax but incised at a later date, quite in contrast to the M.L.G or the Valsuani stamps, which had been added into the soft wax surface. The plaster models (positives) and hollow moulds (retainers) used for making gelatine impressions (negatives) for the production of the 36 busts for the Barbedienne as well as Valsuani editions were destroyed on March 2, 1965 in the presence of Mme Le Garrec and a notary public at the Valsuani factory to ascertain that no more copies from the original cast would be made.

 

The Valsuani bronzes are considered rare and hardly ever appear on the Art market (<a href="glossar.php?id=110">see photo</a>). They usually fetch a higher price than the bronzes from the Barbedienne foundry.

 

THE CLAUDE VALSUANI FOUNDRY (lost wax process)

Marcello Valsuani emigrated from Italy to France and worked initially as technical director at the Hébrard foundry by 1902. He returned to Italy before World War I. In 1908, his son Claude established a foundry at 74 Rue des Plantes in Paris. He specialized in the lost wax process (cire perdue). He was one of the first founders to explicitly number his casts (usually a maximum of 10 pieces). After Claude’s death in Malgrate, Italy in 1923, his son Marcel succeeded him using the cachet “C. Valsuani”, while his younger brother Attilo managed the foundry for a limited time while Claude’s widow took care of the administration. The Valsuani foundry acquired a great reputation for its castings in the lost wax method. Tullio Clementi learned the art of foundry still from Claude Valsuani, before opening his own studio.

 

It is important to understand in connection with Daumier’s Louis XIV sculpture that Marcel Valsuani sub-contracted other foundries, which used the sand cast method (E. Lebon, “Fondeurs de Bronze d’Art”, 2003, Marjon éditions, Perth, Australia, p. 260) like Susse, Rudier etc. In 1973, Marcel retired where after the company was managed for a year by Antoine Tamburro, before it was sold to Anne Demeurisse, daughter of the sculptor Pompon. (For additional detailed information about the further developments in connection with this label please consult the book by E. Lebon.)

 

The firm worked for a number of famous artists including Renoir, Bourdelle, Daumier, Picasso, Pompon, Despiau, Troubetskoy, and especially Matisse.

 

BRONZE SURMOULAGE (COPY). 

This section deals with bronzes, which do not carry a number or foundry stamp, thus making it difficult to identify the producer / foundry of a sculpture. A surmoulage is a bronze reproduction from an already existing sculpture. In 1965, the plaster used for the Barbedienne and Valsuani editions had been destroyed by the editor Le Garrec. Nevertheless, this had only little impact on the number of reproductions, which still appeared on the market. It was still possible to produce a copy (surmoulage) from an already existing Barbedienne bronze and delete the number and markings. Guy Hain, a notorious forger of Rodin busts produced a few Daumier busts of remarkable quality, which carried neither a number nor a foundry cachet (see our remarks below under: “Original or not“). It should also be noted that in a few cases two bronzes with the identical number appeared twice - as seen for example in an auction in 1998 - while at the same time being part of the collection of a well-known Museum. These “irregularities” are being pointed out in the relevant sections of the Daumier Register whenever they occur.

 

Some of the surmoulage copies carry a monogram (H.D.) in various forms and sizes. They are usually, like in the case of “Pataille”, slightly heavier and smaller than the so-called “legal copies” due to the mould shrinkage in baking and consequent loss as a result of the drying process of the bronze. Occasionally, “Pataille” and “Viennet” sculptures can be found without a number or cachet. They are not necessarily surmoulages, but original Barbedienne editions. These were models, which had been rejected or were used as trial copies by the foundry. Wasserman stresses (pp. 26/27) that “the exact number of bronzes, even in a numbered edition is often greatly confused by the appearance of unnumbered trial proofs. Some of these had been marked “E.E.” even “0” or “HC”. Some of them did not carry any initials or number at all and were not supposed to be sold on the market.” (<a href="glossar.php?id=111">click here</a> to see an example.) Already in 1943, Le Garrec complained about illegal copies of “Viennet”, followed later by illegal copies of “Pataille” and in 1948 by “Philipon” (DR9635). These usually carried no foundry mark or number, but only, in contrast to the trial copies, the monogram H.D.

 

Apart from the surmoulages in bronze there exist numerous copies using materials such as resin, plaster, plastic, metal legations etc. They can differ in size, monograms and numbering. Most of them can be found under the section “Fakes and Imitations” in the Daumier Register. We are not aware of any bronze surmoulage of this bust having been offered on the market.

 

ORIGINAL OR NOT… that is the question!

The basic question in Daumier’s sculptural oeuvre remains: Can these sculptures be considered “originals”? (The same question arises regarding sculptures by Rodin, Degas and others). In contrast to paintings, drawings and lithographs, the technique of producing a sculpture or a woodcut (in the case of Daumier) always involved another craftsman besides the artist himself. In the case of sculptures this person executed the physical bronze casting from the original clay or plaster made by Daumier. In the case of a woodcut an engraver would incise the lines drawn by the artist on a wood block. Thus the conundrum prevails whether such a work can be considered a “true original” or not. Some purists are of the opinion that ALL of Daumier’s bronze sculptures should be considered “reproductions”. The ONLY “true original” would be the clay or plaster moulded by the artist himself without any involvement of another person. One should also consider the fact that the (once) original clay models had been restored at different times: before 1927, in the 1960s and again in 2005 by at least two different groups of specialists, each most likely changing the original design of Daumier’s work. Working with wax, gelatine, plaster etc. on the original clay may have added further slight changes, so that one may assume that the final clay model and consequently its bronze cast would look different from the first original model initially designed by Daumier himself.

 

Since December 29, 1994 French law prescribed by "décret du 17 février 1995" that the maximum number of "legally permitted" sculptures are 12 casts and that they should no longer be called "oeuvres d'art originales", but simply "oeuvres d'art" (see E. Lebon, "Fondeurs de Bronze d'Art", 2003, p. 89). This means that all bronzes described in our work catalogue should not legally be considered “originals”. Under present law a slightly altered size of a bronze, however, would legally permit a foundry to make a new edition of 12 “oeuvres d’art” as described above. The Rodin Museum in Paris, to mention just one example, continues to produce new editions of the same Rodin sculptures by changing the sizes; according to present law this is considered legal.

 

Special attention should be drawn to so-called “surmoulages” (not legal copies according to present law) made from already existing bronze sculptures (usually without the knowledge of the artist). In these cases, forgers like Guy Hain (until recently in jail in Besançon, France, for forgery of sculptures) produced thousands of bronze copies of 19th and 20th century artists including a few ‘Daumiers’. He made after-casts from finished bronzes, using flexible silicon moulds. He then engaged different foundries in remote parts of France: one did the casting, another one the mounting and the third one the patination. He consigned these copies to auction houses through third parties, one of them being his daughter's father-in-law in Marseille.

 

It seems not quite clear why “surmoulages” copies should be considered fakes according to present law, while numerous casts reduced or increased in size can be considered “legal”. Notably, both the legal as well as the illegal sculptures were made without the consent of an already deceased artist like Daumier, Rodin, Degas etc.

 

We have seen a few of these “illegal” bust-copies, which were made using the sand cast method, as opposed to the lost wax process applied by the original French foundries for Daumier busts. Most of these sculptures were of a surprisingly good quality and very close to the “original”. They occasionally show a monogram or no markings at all, but hardly ever a numbering. Although they are reproductions (as are of course the “legalized” copies in their true sense), the price difference on the Art market compared to the legal copies is striking.

 

LEGAL ASPECTS OF POSTHUMOUS BRONZE SCULPTURES

"It was not until 1952 that France passed a law limiting the number of sculpture editions to 12. In 1968, the law was amended to require the name of the foundry on the sculpture and the number of the cast to be added. It was rehashed again in 1982 to refine the numbering system; Arabic numbers 1 through 8 being reserved for casts intended for the market while Roman numerals I to IV were used for the so-called artist's proofs, which in the case of the Musée Rodin, are reserved for cultural institutions. In addition, the date of the cast must be inscribed on the bronze. Reproductions beyond the 12 casts must, according to a 1981 law designed to combat fraud in art transactions, be labelled as such. Those regulations had no impact on existing works such as Rodin's “Eternal Spring”, of which between 50 and 100 different casts in four different sizes have been produced during Rodin’s lifetime and after his death. Before settling on the Alexis Rudier Foundry in 1902, Rodin worked with 27 different foundries at a time when the concept of limited sculptures editions did not yet exist.

 

Until the 1970s, neither Sotheby's nor Christie's made distinction between lifetime and posthumous casts in their catalogue descriptions. Since then, the situation has slightly improved. In 1991, the New York State legislature passed a new sculpture law that was tacked onto the existing Arts and Cultural Affaires law, with civil penalties of up to $ 5,000 for tampering with a foundry mark or for not providing full disclosure of information at the time of sale regarding the date of a sculpture, as well as its dimensions, medium, number of casts made and whether it was a lifetime or posthumous cast. A dealer or an auction house would have to disclose clearly in writing whether the cast was authorized by the artist or by others. Bronzes still sold as “by” Degas or “by” Daumier should be described as "posthumous". “

(From: Adrian Darmon, Professor, history of bronze sculpture, E.A.C School Paris)

 

To read an extensive article by the same author about forgery in Art, please consult the following link: http://www.museum-security.org/forgeries.htm