Collector’s Minute: Isidore Jules Bonheur Sculptures
The piece is based on “Taureau Chargeant” (“A Pacing Bull”) by Isidore Jules Bonheur but is a 20th-century reproduction. It appears older than it is because of its deep patina, which on these modern pieces is not the result of 100-plus years of oxidation, but a chemically induced one.
Sculptor Isidore Jules Bonheur was born on May 15, 1827, in Bordeaux, France, to a well-known family of artists. Isidore’s first salon entry was a plaster study of an African horseman attacked by a Lion in 1848. He later exhibited in his sculptures at the Paris Salon and The Royal Academy in London. This piece pictured above, titled “Taureau Chargeant” (“A Pacing Bull”) was first cast by the Peyrol foundry, circa 1865, and some sold through Tiffany & Co.
Almost all of Bonheur’s works were cast by Hippolyte Peyrol and carry the foundry mark of his company. Like a great many other pieces by Isidore Bonheur, as well as his sister Marie Rosalie (Rosa) Bonheur (1822-1899), his work has been widely reproduced, as have many pieces by other well-known sculptors of the 19th century. With the exception of some very rare, early examples by Bonheur, the originals will have the Peyrol foundry mark, quite often though the foundry mark is extremely small and very difficult to find. The ones sold through Tiffany will also have identifiable Tiffany & Co. marks.
This bronze version of “Taureau” is more like the real McCoy, selling for $3,500 in a 2010 internet auction.
Sadly, though, the example above is a late 20th-century copy, which is still being reproduced. It appears older than it is because of its deep patina, which on these modern pieces is not the result of 100-plus years of oxidation, but a chemically induced one. This tarnished look should never be polished off, even on reproductions, as it is nearly always meant to be part of the original design.
In the current market, examples like this one with no foundry markings to indicate a maker often sell at auction in the $300-$500 range. That said, I highly recommend having bronzes physically examined to verify there are no foundry markings before offering to buy or sell, as the difference in value between an original and even a contemporary copy can be huge. In the case of the genuine examples of Isidore Bonheur’s “Taureau Chargeant.” they sell at auction for ten times that of the reproductions, in the $3,000-$5,000 range.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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