This unusual bronze statue can be found on the raised terrace that runs along the southern flank of the Jardin Public in central Bordeaux. It depicts the artist Carle Vernet, but who was Vernet and what was his connection with the city?
Carle Vernet was born Antoine Charles Horace Vernet on August 14th 1758 in Bordeaux. He was the son of the renowned painter Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) who had been commissioned by King Louis XV to deliver a series of pictures of France's seaports (*see footnote). This resulted in a number of extended stays in coastal cities around the country. And so it was that the Vernet clan momentarily set up shop in Bordeaux, residing for two years at what is now number 22, Cours du Chapeau-Rouge.
A plaque celebrates this temporary home and the birthplace of Carle Vernet, who was the family's third and final child. The expanded family duties did not distract Joseph from his royal artistic assignment in Bordeaux: he produced a couple of famous paintings which today hang in the Musée national de la Marine in Paris.
|Joseph Vernet's views of the port of Bordeaux (1757-1759). Joseph obviously enjoyed painting the sky. Sources: Wikipedia and juliendaget.perso.sfr.fr.|
And focus on painting Carle Vernet did, notably excelling in the production of battle and hunting scenes. One of his most famous paintings, The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus, was presented as Vernet's reception piece to France's Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1789, where he gained a seat alongside his father. The natural-born royalist’s outlook evolved radically after that year's French Revolution, during which his older sister Emilie was guillotined. His style changed and Vernet shifted mainly to lithography and the production of almost caricature-like pictures illustrating the trades of Paris and the in-vogue movement of Incroyables et Merveilleuses.
|Contrasting styles: The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus (source: metmuseum.org) and the picture of a Parisian tradesman (a grinder), entitled Le Gagne-Petit (source: remouleurs.wordpress.com).|
|The Battle of Marengo (source: fineartamerica.com).|
The current Jardin Public statue celebrating this son of Bordeaux, the work of sculptor Raymond Martin, was erected in 1948. It was positioned on the spot where a first statue of Carle Vernet had stood from 1922 until 1942, when it was melted down, one of many bronze victims of the Second World War.
|The original statue of Carle Vernet, photograph taken from the same angle as the picture at the top of the article.|
- Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map
- Big thanks to members of the "Bordeaux, je me souviens" Facebook group who helped me familiarise myself with this subject!