Guillaume Coustou the Elder
- See also: Guillaume Coustou the Younger, nephew of Guillaume the Elder
Guillaume Coustou the Elder (29 November 1677, Lyon - 22 February 1746, Paris) was a French sculptor and academician. Coustou was the younger brother of French sculptor Nicolas Coustou and the pupil of his mother's brother, Antoine Coysevox. Like his brother, he was employed by Louis XIV and Louis XV.
He won the Colbert prize (Prix de Rome), as had his brother, which gave him a four-year scholarship at the French Academy in Rome; but refusing to submit to the rules of the academy, he soon left it, and according to legend for some time wandered homeless through the streets of Rome, though he soon found work in the atelier of Pierre Legros.
Returning to Paris, he assisted his uncle in executing the monumental equestrian sculptures of Fame and Mercury for Marly—which were to be replaced by his own Horse Tamers. In 1704 he was admitted into the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture; his morceau de reception was Hercule sur le bûcher ("Hercules on the Pyre"), 1704 (now at the Louvre Museum, illustration, left); it displays the dynamic transverse pose and virtuoso carving that academy reception pieces were expected to display. Afterwards he became the academy's director, 1733;
His finest works are the famous group of the "Horse Tamers" (Chevaux de Marly), which reinvent the theme of the colossal Roman marbles of the Horse Tamers in the Piazza Quirinale, Rome. They were commissioned by Louis XV in 1739 and installed in 1745 at the Abreuvoir ("Horse Trough") at Marly. The familiar versions (illustration, left) at the entrance to the Champs-Élysées, Paris are cast reproductions.
Coustou also created the colossal groups The Ocean and the Mediterranean among other sculptures for the park at Marly; the bronze Rhone, which formed part of the statue of Louis XIV at Lyons, and the sculptures at the entrance of the Hôtel des Invalides. Of these latter, the bas-relief representing Louis XIV mounted and accompanied by Justice and Prudence was destroyed during the Revolution, but was restored in 1815 by Pierre Cartellier from Coustou's model; the bronze figures of Mars and Minerva (1733–34), on either side of the doorway, were not interfered with.
In 1714 for Marly he collaborated in two marble sculptures representing Apollo Chasing Daphne (both at the Louvre), in which Nicolas Coustou sculpted the Apollo and Guillaume the Daphne. About the same time he was commissioned to produce another running figure in marble, a Hippomenes designed to complement an Atalanta copied from the Antique by Pierre Lepautre: each was placed at the center of one of the carp pools at Marly. In 1725 the duc d'Antin, general director of the Bâtiments du Roi commissioned a pair of life-size marbles of Louis XV as Jupiter and Marie Leszczynska as Juno for the park of his château de Petit-Bourg, which adjoined the park of Versailles, to which it was added after the duke's death.
A number of his sculptures were for the Tuileries Gardens, most notably a bronze Diane à la biche ("Diana and a Hind").
Coustou's marble Bust of Samuel Bernard is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art , Guillaume often worked with his brother Nicolas Coustou, particularly in the decoration of royal domestic architecture at Versailles.
- The originals were brought indoors for protection at the Louvre Museum in 1984
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Coustou". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 336.
- Louvre website: Guillaume I Coustou, Hippomène
- Guillaume Coustou the Elder in American public collections, on the French Sculpture Census website