Gilded and Graceful: Agathon Léonard 's ‘Le Jeu de l 'éscharpe ' Sculptures

05/04/2017     News and Film

The sculptor Agathon Léonard was born in Lille in 1841 as Agathon Léonard Van Weydevelt, but adopted a pseudonym for his professional life as a sculptor.  He studied first under Eugène Delaplanche and ultimately was elected to the Lille Académie des Beaux-Arts.  In 1889, he received the silver medal at the Exposition Universelle, and in 1900, he received the gold medal.  This sealed his reputation within the art establishment, and he was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in that year.The Scarf DanceLéonard is most famous for his Jeu de l'echarpe series, originally conceived as a porcelain group and executed by Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, the porcelain manufactory just south of Paris. Initially designed in 1898, the series of fifteen figures consisted of fourteen female figures presented in a dance around a central figure, with bases of three differing heights, and were first exhibited at the 1900 éxposition Universelle in Paris.  The edition sold out at the éxposition, and was so popular that it was reproduced in various editions. Ultimately, they were issued in gilt-bronze in conjunction with the Parisian foundry Susse Frères.  There are several full porcelain sets in existence, one of the most important being that presented to Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by the French Republic during their state visit to France in September of 1901.  Kept in the private apartments of the Empress at the Winter Palace, the group is now in the Hermitage Museum. In addition, other examples by Léonard are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Musée de Nantes, among others.Freeman 's is pleased to offer three sculptures by Agathon Léonard in the upcoming British & European Furniture and Decorative Arts auction on May 25. “Danseuse Relevant sa Jupe,” “La Danseuse au Cothurne,” and “Danseuse à L'Echarpe” were all produced circa 1900. The latter two lots are both accompanied by original sketches by the artist himself.  View the Catalogue Now To Be Offered May 25: Lot 88: by Agathon Léonard (French, 1841-1923) “Danseuse à L'Echarpe, circa 1900,” estimate $8,000-10,000.