Head of a Peasant (Tête de paysan)

Aimé-Jules Dalou French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 552

Among the most important monumental sculptures in nineteenth-century Paris, Dalou’s Triumph of the Republic embodies the sculptor’s political ideals and artistic originality. The colossal sculpture represents Marianne, the female personification of the French republic, standing aloft a lavishly ornamented orb and chariot and surrounded by allegories of peace, liberty, labor, and justice. Disappointed by the pageantry of the 1889 unveiling of his Republic, which he felt undermined its purpose as a tribute to the French people, Dalou determined to create a monument solely dedicated to the laboring classes. Working without a commission to support the project’s realization, Dalou privately developed his Monument to Working People over the next decade.

At his death, 106 studies and maquettes, including 56 small bozzetti of workers sketched from life during visits to factories and fields, were found in the artist’s studio, unknown to the outside world. This bust is one of several life-size portraits Dalou produced for this unfinished opus magnum. It exemplifies the technical virtuosity of its modeler as well as his evolution towards a naturalistic style, unburdened by the traditions and trappings of French allegorical sculpture. In the weary face of the worker, Dalou captures the humble, dignified character of the laboring man, crowning him the unsung hero in the grinding arc of industrial progress.

Head of a Peasant (Tête de paysan), Aimé-Jules Dalou (French, Paris 1838–1902 Paris), Plaster, French

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