About This Artwork

Pierre Biard, II
French, 1592-1661

An Allegory of Statuary or Lament of Sculpture, 1629

Etching in black on ivory laid paper
325 x 530 mm (image); 353 x 532 mm (sheet)

Everett D. Graff Fund and Henry M. Huxley Fund, 1983.280

Pierre Biard the Younger, who had became enamored with Italian art after a visit to Rome, was appointed the court sculptor of Henri IV in 1609. This idiosyncratic etching includes text in both French and Italian, as well as a double self-portrait of the artist (as the two male figures on the right). The allegorical figure of Calumny reappears from the ancient lost painting of the Calumny of Apelles. By explicitly referencing a painting in a print about sculpture, Biard may be staging his own paragone, a debate tradition dating from antiquity in which one art form was compared with another.

— Permanent collection label

Pierre Biard the Younger was the court sculptor of Henri IV of France, like his father before him. Biard’s idiosyncratic etching likely refers to artistic rivalry and a version of the ancient paragone, a debate tradition in which one art form was compared with another, held at the French court. Yet the only sculpture shown is the Terminus column at right, with the head (and likely phallus) of Hermes. Other sculptural references appear below in the margins. A bear sculpts her young out of a formless mass using her tongue, while the lively putti at the bottom right scare each other with theater masks in a scene similar to those found on sarcophagus reliefs and in small-scale sculpture.

— Exhibition label, Dionysos Unmasked: Ancient Sculpture and Early Prints, July 31, 2015–February, 15, 2016, Galleries 150 and 154.

Interpretive Resources

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