Carpeaux was, after Rodin, probably the greatest French sculptor of the nineteenth century. Napoleon III took him under his wing, to such an extent that Carpeaux’s name became irrevocably associated with the gaudiness of the Second Empire. He participated in the prestigious building programmes of the period. He was commissioned to create a group of monumental stone figures for the facade of the new Paris Opera 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 glamour. Although this model is often found on the art market, this example is an outstanding one. Two versions exist of the bust : this one is by far the more rare. It is the only dated version and was created the same year as The Dance, in 1869. The shimmering crystalline quality of the marble demonstrates how this material fascinated the sculptor.