A Very Fine French 19th Century Patinated Bronze Figure of "Milo of Croton and the Lion" after the marble sculpture of Milon de Crotone by renown French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet (1 December 1716 – 24 January 1791) currently at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France and another example in bronze at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The finely executed bronze sculpture depicting the 6th-Century BC wrestler, from the Magna Graecian City of Croton, as a nude and muscular male wrestler, resting on his back, holding on to a tree trunk as he fights off an attack by a lion who is biting him on the leg, in a brown patina and raised on a green marble plinth. Incised: Falconet. Circa: Paris, 1870-1880.
Overall Height: 19 1/4 inches (49 cm)
Bronze Height: 17 1/4 inches (43.5 cm)
Width: 15 1/2 inches (39.5 cm)
Depth: 12 inches (30.5 cm)
Étienne Maurice Falconet (1716-1791) was a French baroque, rococo and neoclassical sculptor, best-known for his equestrian statue of Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman (1782), in St. Petersburg, Russia, and for the small statues he produced in series for the Royal Sévres Porcelain Manufactory.
Falconet was born to a poor family in Paris. He was at first apprenticed to a carpenter, but some of his clay figures, with the making of which he occupied his leisure hours, attracted the notice of the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, who made him his pupil. One of his most successful early sculptures was of Milo of Croton, which secured his admission to the membership of the Académie des beaux-arts in 1754.
He came to prominent public attention in the Salons of 1755 and 1757 with his marbles of L'Amour and the Nymphe descendant au bain (also called The Bather), which is now at the Louvre. In 1757 Falconet was appointed director of the sculpture atelier of the new Manufacture royale de porcelaine at Sèvres, where he brought new life to the manufacture of small sculptures in unglazed soft-paste porcelain figurines that had been a specialty at the predecessor of the Sèvres manufactory, Vincennes.
The influence of the painter François Boucher and of contemporary theater and ballet are equally in evidence in Falconet's subjects, and his sweet, elegantly erotic, somewhat coy manner. Right at the start, Falconet created for Sèvres a set of white biscuit table garnitures of putti (Falconet's Enfants), illustrating the Arts, meant to complement the manufacture's grand dinner services. The fashion for similar small table sculptures spread to most of the porcelain manufacturies of Europe.
He remained at the Sèvres post until he was invited to Russia by Catherine the Great in September 1766. At St Petersburg he executed a colossal statue of Peter the Great in bronze, known as the Bronze Horseman, together with his pupil and stepdaughter Marie-Anne Collot. In 1788, back in Paris he became director of the Académie des beaux-arts. Many of Falconet's religious works, commissioned for churches, were destroyed at the time of the French Revolution. His work on private commission fared better.
He found time to study Greek and Latin, and also wrote several brochures on art: Denis Diderot confided to him the chapter on "Sculpture" in the Encyclopédie, separately released by Falconet as Réflexions sur la sculpture in 1768. Three years later, he published Observations sur la statue de Marc-Aurèle, which may be interpreted as the artistic program for his statue of Peter the Great. Falconet's writings on art, his Oeuvres littéraires came to six volumes when they were first published, at Lausanne, in 1781–1782.
Falconet's somewhat prettified and too easy charm incurred the criticism of the Encyclopædia Britannica 1911: "His artistic productions are characterized by the same defects as his writings, for though manifesting considerable cleverness and some power of imagination, they display in many cases a false and fantastic taste, the result, most probably, of an excessive striving after originality."
The painter Pierre-Étienne Falconet was his son.
Milo of Croton (Crotone) was a 6th-century BC wrestler from the Magna Graecian City of Croton, who enjoyed a brilliant wrestling career and won many victories in the most important athletic festivals of ancient Greece. In addition to his athletic victories, Milo is credited by the ancient commentator Diodorus Siculus with leading his fellow citizens to military triumph over neighboring Sybaris in 510 BC.
Milo was also said to have carried a bull on his shoulders, and to have burst a band about his brow by simply inflating the veins of his temples.
The date of Milo's death is unknown, but he reportedly was attempting to tear a tree apart when his hands became trapped in a crevice in its trunk, and a pack of wolves surprised and devoured him. Milo has been depicted in works of art by Pierre Puget, Étienne-Maurice Falconet and others. Literary allusions to this story appear in works such as Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, and Alexandre Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask.
Milo was a six-time Olympic victor. He won the boys' wrestling (probably in 540 BC), and thereafter five men's wrestling titles between 536 and 520 BCE. He also won seven crowns at the Pythian Games at Delphi (one as a boy), ten at the Isthmian Games, and nine at the Nemean Games. Milo was a five-time Periodonikēs, a "grand slam" sort of title bestowed on the winner of all four festivals in the same cycle. Milo's career at the highest level of competition must have spanned 24 years.
Milo was defeated (or tied) in his attempt at a seventh Olympic title in 516 BCE by a young wrestler from Croton who practiced the technique of akrocheirismos—literally, 'highhandedness' or wrestling at arm's length—and by doing so, avoided Milo's crushing embrace. Simple fatigue took its toll on Milo.]
Milo's hometown had a reputation for producing excellent athletes. In the Olympiad of 576 BC, for example, the first seven finishers in the stade—a 200 yards (180 m) sprint—were all men of Croton. After Milo's career, Croton apparently produced no other athletes of renown.