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Les sources iconographiques
des portraits fictifs du père jésuite Jacques Marquette

1894 Leopold Bracony

Leopold Bracony a présenté cette maquette au concours organisé par l'État du Wisconsin, en 1894, visant à sélectionner la sculpture de Marquette qui représenterait cet État dans le Hall of the House of Representatives du Capitol, tel que décidé par le Congrès en 1864. Elle est donc forcément moins connue et imitée que l'oeuvre qui a gagné ce concours, celle de 1896 Trentanove.

La représentation de Marquette y est fort intéressante et originale, plus discrète, délicate et maniérée que celle de Trentanove, éléments qui ont probablement joué en sa défaveur, car convenant davantage à un art décoratif d'intérieur domestique qu'à une grande sculpture historique d'art public visant à soulever les passions. La posture est animée dans l'espace, par un léger contrapposto, par l'aristocratique regard oblique, les positions variées des bras et l'important mouvement du drapé évoquant un patricien romain. Marquette tient sa carte dans sa main gauche. Son visage est d'âge moyen et glabre. Il présente un début de calvitie, arborant une houppe sur le devant de la tête, motif qui sera utilisé par quelques artistes.

L'État du Wisconsin a procrastiné 23 longues années avant de sélectionner le personnage historique devant les représenter au Capitol. Le choix de Marquette, en 1887, a soulevé des passions politiques et religieuses dont Cronon 1973 donne un compte-rendu détaillé (voir pdf). Nous en avons extrait, ci-dessous, les éléments relatifs au concours organisé en 1894.

Leopold Bracony est né à Rome. Il a habité et exposé à Paris.

  • Salon 1886 (p. 298, n° 3568) : élève de A. Peruzzi ; rue Saint-Ferdinand, 22 ; Portrait de M. H. Ruty, buste, plâtre.
  • Salon 1889 (p. 312, n° 4094) : élève de l'Académie de Rome, Rue Torricelli, 6; Amour endormi, statue, marbre.
  • Drouot 1890 : Catalogue de sculptures, marbres, terres cuites: groupes, statuettes, bustes, oeuvres de Carrier-Belleuse et de Bracony : vente, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, salle 1, 19 décembre 1890, commissaire-priseur, Me G. Duchesne.
  • Salon 1891 (p. 205, n° 2322) : élève de l'Académie de Rome ; rue Torricelli prolongée, 6 ; L'Echo, statue, plâtre.
  • Salon 1892 (p. 226, n° 2352) : élève de l'Académie de Rome ; rue Torricelli, 6 ; L'Echo, statue, plâtre.

« Briefly active in Canton (Stark) [Ohio] in late 1896 or early 1897; he was called there to execute a bust of Mrs. William McKinley, shortly before the President's inauguration. Bracony was living in New York City around 1915 (Weidman 2000, web p. 108). »

Leopold Bracony (1875-1915-), Jacques Marquette, 1894, Plaster, 73cm x 38cm x 23cm (28 3/4" x 14 15/16" x 9 1/16"), Wisconsin Historical Society (officially the State Historical Society of Wisconsin), 1967.496, source. Photo source : Cronon 1973.

Extracts from Cronon 1973 relating to
the Wisconsin 1894 commission
to select a sculptor for the Marquette statue.

Father Marquette goes to Washington, The Marquette Statue Controversy.

In 1864 Congress decided to turn the old Hall of the House of Representatives in the newly enlarged national Capitol into a Statuary Hall to honor a select group of distinguished Americans. The President was accordingly authorized to invite each state to provide statues "in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each state, of deceased persons, who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown, or from distinguished civic or military services, such as each state shall determine to be worthy of this national commemoration."

Indeed, it was not until 1887 that the legislature gave serious consideration to the matter of placing a Wisconsin statue in the national Capitol. In January of that year Senator George C. Ginty, a Republican newspaper editor from Chippewa Falls, introduced a bill proposing that the state honor Father Marquette by placing his statue in Washington. Ginty's motives were not clear. He may simply have reasoned that the intrepid and saintly Marquette was Wisconsin's strongest contender for the honor, for as he told the senate, "if ever an unselfish man walked the earth, it was the missionary who planted the cross on the shores of Lake Superior in the latter half of the sixteenth [sic] century." Or, as some observers pointed out, he may have hoped that this gesture would both please his numerous constituents of French Canadian descent and attract broader Catholic support for his as yet unfulfilled gubernatorial ambitions.

In Wisconsin Governor Peck proved to be in no hurry to provide a statue. Not until July of 1894 did he appoint a commission to select a sculptor, and then only after the major English-language Catholic paper of the state, the Milwaukee Catholic Citizen, began regularly publishing the number of weeks remaining in Peck's term and pointedly asking when he was going to do something about Father Marquette's statue.

In contrast to earlier delays, the commission moved swiftly to discharge its assignment. Promptly announcing a nationwide competition, it invited artists "at their own expense, to furnish models, drawings and full information in detail" for judging on October 15, 1894. The commission specified that the statue "must be of the finest and best grade of statuary marble, and must be equal in quality and workmanship to any in Statuary Hall in the Capitol at Washington, and at least equal in size to the one of Hon. James A. Garfield, lately placed therein by the state of Ohio."

Coming as it did in the midst of a severe economic depression, the Marquette statue competition elicited a good deal of interest from aspiring American and European artists. Not all of those responding appeared to have strong qualifications. One such was the Pickel Marble and Granite Company of St. Louis, whose letterhead indicated that the firm specialized in "furniture, radiator and plumber tops, altars, headstones, monuments, and tombs."'

Some sculptors requested the commission to send a photograph or give particulars about Marquette's height, weight, dress, etc., to which Secretary La Follette invariably responded, "There are no pictures of Marquette in existence and, of course, artists must depend upon their own conception for figure and features, each having the same opportunity to learn the facts of his life from history."

Helen F. Mears, a twenty-two-year-old Oshkosh resident, entered a model which she described as of "the pious and gentle Marquette, clothed in the habit of his order, gazing for the first time over the broad expanse of the Mississippi."

By the time of its October 15 deadline, the commission had received fourteen proposals, though two included neither the name of the artist nor a bid. Several others arrived before the final decision three weeks later. The models varied considerably in artistic conception and quality, to say nothing of price, which ranged from $4,000 to $10,000.

None of the best-known American sculptors had bothered to enter the competition, however. Indeed, one had warned the commission that this "is always an unsatisfactory way of getting a design, resulting almost invariably, in a lot of bad ones, for the reason that no sculptor of ability has time to compete in that way."

The art critic of the Milwaukee Sentinel, Edwin C. Eldridge, expressed great disappointment at the motley collection, "there being but few of them," he said, "at all worthy of serious consideration." Typical of Eldridge's disdainful reaction was his complaint that Chicago sculptor Leopold Bracony, by presenting the figure of a pious and reflective philosopher, had "made a solemn fool of Pere Marquette, absolutely foreign to the subject in question."

Eldridge's favorite was the model by Gaetano Trentanove, a Florentine sculptor known to Milwaukeeans for his busts of such prominent residents as Matthew H. Carpenter and William E. Cramer, the former now in the possession of the State Historical Society and the latter belonging to Marquette University. The commission members evidently agreed with this assessment, for on November 7, 1894, they unanimously decided to award the contract to Signor Trentanove, who thereupon departed for northern Wisconsin to become more familiar with the subject by visiting some Indian reservations.

Ironically, although both the Trentanove and Bracony models subsequently came to the Historical Society, it is the pensive Bracony model — the one art critic Eldridge considered "a solemn fool" — that the Museum staff currently favors enough to put on display, relegating the winning Trentanove model to storage!

« Fotografie - Dührkoop, Rudolf (1848-1918) und Minya Diez-Dührkoop (1873-1929)

Porträt Leopold Bracony. Platindruck.

Auf dem großen Japanbogen handschriftlich signiert "R. u. M. Dührkoop", verso auf dem O.-Unterlagenblatt bezeichnet u. "No 42 / Portrait of the sculptur Bracony / 1909", Stempel "Landeskunstschule Hamburg 24 / Ausgeschieden", u.l. Stempel "Rudolf Dührkoop / Hamburg / Jungfernstieg 34.", Im Druck u.r.mit Trockenstempel "Dührkoop", verso bezeichnet "II/89740 b". Auf Japanpapier und Karton zweifach original-montiert, 22,1 x 16,7 cm (Bildmaß), 41,2 x 31 cm (Blattmaß) Porträt des Bildhauers Leopold Bracony (ca.1840-1926) als Brustbild in Vorderansicht. Der Skulpteur stützt nachdenklich den Kopf in die Hand. Der Fokus liegt auf seinem Gesicht und der Hand, die im Gegensatz zu den umliegenden Partien in voller Tiefenschärfe erscheinen. Minya Dührkoop begann 14 jährig als Assistentin im Atelier ihres Vaters Rudolf D. zu arbeiten. Seit Rudolf Dührkoop um 1900 zwei Filialen in Berlin eröffnete, betrieb sie selbständig das Hamburger Studio. Ihre Kunstfotografien vertraten den pictorialistischen Stil, der mittels verringerter Konturenschärfe und einer zerstreuten Lichtführung malerische Qualitäten hervorbrachte [web ou pdf]. »

New York Times, December 31, 1905 (collaboration from Lea Stefancova)

A Bird of Passage

The Sculptor Bracony Pitches His Artistic Tent in New York for the Winter.

At the top of the big office building 24 East Twenty-first Street is a studio of modest dimensions, where Signor, or, should one say Monsieur? Leopold Bracony has planted his artistic tent for the Winter. He is a sculptor, born in Rome of a French father. At twenty-five, having already studied at the Accademia di San Luca, he hied him to Paris, and after working in many studios came to Chicago for the World's Fair. Since then he has been a citizen of the world. Now it has been Paris, now Munich, and again Rome that has held him for a few years at a time. The energy and restlessness of Chicago have not failed to lure him back across the water. Jus now he has paused in New York to try his hand at portraits.

Looking about at the imaginative figures and groups it was natural to ask why portraiture should have attracted him.

"During my various sojourns in America," he remarked in French which was uncommonly pure for a native of Italy, "I have had so many commissions for portraits that I have begun to believe myseld an adept in that line, although I will confess that symbolical or purely fanciful statuary excites me more and gives me greater pleasure. The bust of your unfortunate President McKinley, which is in the White House, is mine," and he pointed to a plaster cast of McKinley in one corner, "while yonder little girl is Miss Lolita Armour, who became so prominent owing to the cure for lameness performed on her by the famous German surgeon some years ago. Here is a likeness of Archbishop Spalding which has earned me a good many compliments."

« Leopold Bracony made a bust of our first bishop John Lancaster Spalding. There were two, possibly three copies of this bust. One of them is here in Peoria with the Knights of Columbus Spalding Council (named after the bishop while he was still alive). Another bust was given to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1935 by the bishop’s nephew-priest and is on display in one of the libraries. The third bust was for many years in the Spalding Institute, a boys’ high school here in Peoria, but it “disappeared” probably in 1970s-80s or so [collaboration from Lea Stefancova]. »

He brought forward a cleverly modeled half-length and set it in a good light, passing his hand lovingly over the head.

"So you see I have had not a little encouragement in America, and it is natural that I should return. Commissions for statues and groups of a higher type are few and far between. You know the German proverb 'Art goes after bread,'" and the sculptor gave an expressive shrug of the shoulders.

Among the lately finished work modeled during his last year's stay in Chicago is a group that bears the title of the little French comedy "On Ne Badine Pas Avec L'Amour." At one end of a marble bench with a deep, high back stands Cupid, a wingless boy, pouring oil into an antique lamp with his left hand, while his right is raised in a gesture of protest. Ensconced on the broad back of the bench with her hands near her mouth and her lips ready to blow out the flame of the lamp is a young woman, also nude, who is engaged in teasing the little god of love. Both figures are life size and carefully modeled, the maiden's figure being particularly graceful and interesting in the lines.

A statuette calle "A Dream" is an eagle soaring over the sea, which rises up to support it, and a nude nymph stretched on the eagle's back and wings, who with open eyes seems plunged in a charming reverie. The eagle is bronze, the nymph is marble.

Signor Bracony modeled in 1878 the bust of Pope Leo XIII which is in the private library of the Vatican; the late Pontiff gave him nine sittings. Engaged to model pieces for the Lauberderie, the Louis XVI palace of the Grammonts at Marly, he showed these works in 1890 at the Exposition in Industrial Arts in Paris and received the Vermilion Medal. In 1892 he took the gold medal at the Exposition Décorative, and the same year the Salon gave him an honorable mention. His "Echo" was shown in the Italian section at the World's Fair in Chicago. Since that date he has made no less than six trips to Chicago. Most of his sculpture is in private hands, but there is no lack of finished and blocked out work in the studio.

Sketches in clay freed from their wet winding sheets reveal a man holding back in the leash too powerful staghounds, and a relief is covered with many little figures typical and symbolical. Mr. Bracony has much facility in putting together a humorous or sentimental group that hits the hobbies of his friends. Here is a row of tired news vendors, two little boys and a girl, who have gone to sleep on a rough bench with the unsold papers under their arms; they are leaning ont against the other just as sleep has overtaken them.

Very different from all these groups is that of the "Forsaken Orphans," a couple of tired children who have sunk down in a troubled sleep. The elder is a little girl, in whose lap lies a small boy scarcely three years old. The disposition of these figures, while entirely natural, has a somewhat monumental effect when seen from any side, the masses always rising in pyramidal outlines from whichever direction the group is regarded. This hackneyed subject has been managed by Mr. Bracony in such a simple, direct fashion that its sincerity touches one.

"Yes, indeed," answered Mr. Bracony, "I am old enough to remember well the American sculptors domiciled in Rome, such as Crawford, Rodgers, Story. Their marbles depended very much for their success on the marble cutters to whom their clay originals were intrusted. I consider Crawford the most original of them all, but his marble cutter was not up to the mark."

"And modern Italian sculpture? Are they doing much at Rome?"

"Not as much as you are here in America, though there are some excellent masters left in Italy."

"And how about Paris?"

"Ah, there have been great losses to sculpture in France, and one hardly sees how the gaps are going to be filled. Some of the artists there spend too much time advertising themselves; they model with one hand and beat the big drum tiwh the other."

"You are alluding to ---?"

"Not at all! No names - I'm only generalizing."

"And how does American sculpture strike you?"

"Well, when I look back to my first visit to America and compare the present situation with what existed then I am surprised; so many sculptors, scarcely heard of then, have developed into fine masters. They do not, however, welcome foreign artists as foreign artists are welcomed in Munich, in Paris, and in Rome. They keep to themselves, and so they get the reputation of being selfish and inhospitable. Now, lack of hospitality is not an American trait."

"Perhaps they are too busy to be genial."

A look of perplexity lay on the handsomely modeled face of the sculptor.

"Yes," he said at length, "perhaps that's it - perhaps."


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