Artist: Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, Valenciennes 1827–1875 Courbevoie)

Date: 1864

Culture: French, Paris

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: Overall: 11 7/16 x 7 1/16 x 5 15/16 in. (29.1 x 17.9 x 15.1 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Assunta Sommella Peluso, Ada Peluso, and Romano I. Peluso Gift, in memory of Ignazio Peluso, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.199


Carpeaux here demonstrates an enduring admiration for the plangent heroism of Michelangelo, evinced earlier in the famous Ugolino and his Sons, conceived during his study years in Rome, of which the Metropolitan owns the marble finished in 1867. The government of Napoleon III kept Carpeaux busy with official projects, involving decorative sculpture and portraiture, but it is clear from the evidence of the private moments that he occasionally seized to sketch sacred subjects, as here, that he would have been one of the most powerful of all religious artists had he been freer to exercise this repertory. Mounding the clay pellets and pressing them into shape in mere seconds, his entire attention is on the Virgin Mary's maternal embrace, to the virtual exclusion of Christ's legs. A related drawing in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes, is dated 1864.