Warriors on Horseback, Bronze, 1847
This bronze is the work of 19th century French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887), who specialized in the neo-Baroque and neo-Rococo styles affiliated with Romanticism. The Romantic Movement was driven by the interest in human emotions, and reached its zenith in the early decades of the 19th century. The style was effectively a reaction against its contemporary: Neoclassicism. Like other Romantic artists, Carrier-Belleuse rejected the calm sensibility in classically-inspired works, instead favoring fluidity and drama in composition.
In Warriors on Horseback, the viewer bears witness to a vicious hand-to-hand combat between two men clad in classically-inspired attire (a rare theme in Carrier-Beleuse’s work). However, the Classical influence stops there. In terms of form, the four figures – two horses and two men – blend one into another, each twisting and turning wildly in Romantic fashion. Fully in the round, the sculpture gives the illusion of morphing and changing when viewed from different angles. In addition, the artist’s use of negative space beneath the legs of the horses gives the work a quality of weightlessness, and the variety of textures employed are responsible for its convincing realism.
Carrier-Belleuse’s name is well-known in the world of art history, and this may be partly due to the fact that between 1864 and 1870, the renowned Auguste Rodin was employed as his workshop assistant. Emperor Napoléon III also employed him in public projects during the massive rebuilding of Paris from 1851 to 1870.