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Publication: Arts and Activities
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 27311
ISSN: 00043931
Journal code: IAAC

Clip & Save Ins~n,clions: The montMy Art Print is meant to be removed from the center oF the magazine, laminated or matted, and used as a resource in your art room-Editar


Artistic talent ran in the Coustou blood, especially the ability to sculpt in marble. For Guillaume Coustou, nephew of Antoine Coysevoux, brother of Nicholas and father of Guillaume the Younger, that virtuosic ability to sculpt marble was the heart of the family business.

Taught by his uncle, Guillauine trained in Paris with his brother. In 1697, he won the Prix de Rome, but did not attend the Academy. Living like a pauper in Rome, he eventually began to study with the French sculptor Pierre Legros 11(1666-1719), before returning to Paris in 1703.

Back home, his fortunes began to change. In 1704, his marble sculpture Hercules on the Funeral Pyre garnered him a place at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. (He rose through the Academy's ranks and eventually became its director in 1733). Around 1714, he was commissioned to create a sculpture of Hippoinenes, to complement a reproduction of an antique statue representing Atiilanta, the swiftest maiden in Greek mythology. The two sculptures were designed to be centerpieces in the carp pools at the Chateau d' Many.

Costou's most famous and dynamic work, Horse Tamers, demonstrates the pinnacle of his Baroque sensibility: dynamic composition that captures a moment in time, bold carving, delicate detail and a flair for the dramatic. Coustou worked alone or with his brother on many royal commissions, including the sculptural decorations for the architecture at Versailles.


In Book Ten of Metamorphoses, the first-century Roman poet, Ovid, tells the tale of beautiful Atalanta. the swiftest runner in Greek mythology. Having been advised by Apollo to never marry, Atalanta devises a way to avoid matrimony by challenging would-be husbands to a footrace, the terms of which clearly ~vor her if a suitor wins, he also wins her hand; if he should lose, he loses his life.

Enter brave Hippomenes, the subject of this month's Clip & Save Art Print Atalanta is taken with the young man's beauty and courage, and experiences desire for the first time. Despite these unfamiliar feelings, she recalls Apollo's warning. So, with a heavy heart, she agrees to race Hippomenes, knowing that he will ultimately die. But Hippomenes consults Venus, the goddess of love, who counsels him to trick Atalanta by throwing golden apples to the ground during the race, thereby disiracling her and slowing her speed. Hippomenes does as he is told, and wins the race.

With nary a thank-you to Venus, the two marry and make love in a sacred temple, angering the gods, who turn the newlyweds into lions. In this sculpture. Coustou depicts the young Hippomenes in fuli run. We see him clutching an apple in each hand, about to toss the fruit from his right. The figure in motion and the illusion of the wind moving through the youth's hair and sweeping back his garment, combine to create a typically Baroque sense of drama.

Keeping in mind that this piece was designed as part of a pair, it's important to know that the figure acts as a theatre piece when viewed with the sculpture of Atalanta (a copy of a Roman sculpture), who tilts her head toward the golden apples that Hippomenes has thrown in her path. Typical of Coustou's work, he has chosen the story's pivotal moment, thereby creating ultimate tension and drama.

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