Pair of French bronze classical figures, Mars & Athena, one signed Blanpain, c. 1780
Quality pair of French bronze figures, representing Mars and Athena, each modelled in fine classical style, seated with their attributes, he with a sword, she with a long spear, on square plinth bases.
One inscribed ‘BLANPAIN’,
minor signs of age
The foundry mark BLANPAIN is not documented. It defines the firm that cast the bronze; the sculptors of this period often did not sign their works.
Blanpain is listed as a ‘Horologer’ (clock maker) in the commercial guides, for example 1847, in Bar-le-Duc, east of Paris. Clocks appear with the name & address on their dial, and also “56 Rue Amelot, Paris”.
An ‘Ernst Blanpain’ is listed in a 1900 publication “Liste générale alphabétique & par promotions des anciens élèves des écoles nationales d’arts…” , where it mentions his induction at Châlons in 1854, and lists him as being in Paris in 1893, describing him as an ‘engineer and agent for the Foundries of Dammarie’, in SE Paris & famous for its cast-iron. Several foundries were situated here from the early 19th century, mostly making utilitarian objects such as saucepans – but also the finest quality cast-iron details for Paris’s grand building works. Sculpture in cast iron also appears.
However, the style and technique used in this bronze of Mars suggest an earlier date, earlier 19th century and not late 19th. It could even be 18th century…
Several earlier Blanpains – Louis and Jean-Baptiste- appear as bell-makers in Belgium
where the author notes there is some confusion about their identification (” Their biography is difficult,incomplete and problematic.”), and that they came from Saint-Omer. There, the Blanpain/Blampain are: Charles, Jean I, John II, and Michel, all listed as Founders. Note the spelling is sometimes ‘BLAMPAIN’, and the family was a well respected bell maker tracing their roots back to the 17th centrury as clock makers.
A Genealogical website provides the following:
“Jean Baptiste BLANPAIN , born March 9, 1737 – Breuvannes-en-Bassigny, Champagne-Ardenne, France, died December 4, 1802- Verdun, Meuse, Lorraine, France age of 65, Bell Founder “ – his father, Nicolas Blanpain, was also a bell-founder in Saint-Omer. Their bells are found in many French bell-towers. He had no male heir.
Although no other BLANPAIN marked pieces could be found, it seems that J.B. Blancpain, 1737-1802 is the most likely candidate for this work. While known for his bells, bronze foundries also made bronze mortar & pestles, and perhaps the casting of sculptures was also undertaken at his foundry.
Comparing it to other figures, it is probable that it was inspired by an earlier, 17th or early 18th century engraving, and executed in the 1750-1800 period, circa 1780.
Mars is reminiscent of the Michelangelo figure of Lorenzo de Medici, 1534, found on his tomb in Florence – although with a different tilt to the head and addition of sword.