Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux was, after Auguste Rodin, probably the greatest French sculptor of the nineteenth century. Under the patronage of Napoleon III, he was commissioned to create a group of monumental stone figures for the facade of the new Paris Opéra designed by Charles Garnier. While the other allegorical figures adorning the facade are notable for a rather stiff academicism, Carpeaux’s group is stunningly different: bacchantes giving full rein to their carnality encircle a Spirit of the Dance that springs up from the centre. When The Dance was unveiled in 1869, it was judged to be obscene, causing a public outcry. Nevertheless, the busts of the bacchantes produced by Carpeaux were greeted with success. Garlanded with the roses of love, the bacchante exemplify the Second Empire style in all its glory. The shimmering crystalline quality of the marble demonstrates how this material fascinated the sculptor.