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James Pradier

Standing Sappho


James Pradier
Geneva 1790 – Bougival, France, 1852


Standing Sappho




Silvered bronze


44.7 x 22 x 20 cm (without base)


Cast Victor Paillard, Paris


Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 1985.1


Western Art

“Goddess, come again today, deliver me from my cruel torments, fulfil my heart’s desire, and deny me not your all-powerful succour.” Such is the supplication that Sappho, the rejected lover, addressed to Aphrodite. Her hand placed on a votive column at which she has just offered a desperate libation to the goddess of love, the Greek poetess meditates on her impending suicidal leap from the cliffs of Leucas. The Romantic era was more inclined to view Sappho as a tragic lover than as a woman of letters or courtesan. When the model of this sculpture was shown at the Paris Salon of 1848, poet and critic Théophile Gautier was effusive: “[it] could pass for a work from the finest age of Greek or Roman art.” James Pradier excelled in a half-classical, half-romantic – but always voluptuous – style, creating many graceful, even erotic, statuettes, which he sold as models to the producers who abounded during this time when such works were exceptionally popular.

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