Prosper d’Épinay (French, 1836-1914)

Prosper d’Épinay (French, 1836-1914) was born to aristocratic parents who emigrated from France to
the island of Mauritius, then governed by England. His strong connection to England is reflected in his consistent participation at the Royal Academy from 1865 to 1881. Although trained and educated in France, Prosper d’Épinay also maintained a studio in Rome (1864 -1912), where he became a close friend of Mario Fortuny and Henri Regnault, and helped the young Falguière. His career as a society portraitist was fostered by the Princess of Wales and Czar Alexander III.

Prosper d’Epinay had, for a long time, been preoccupied with the theme of Joan of Arc, painstakingly researching her life in libraries and studying the correct period amour and swords. It took him thirty years to realize his dream, towards the end of the century when his health was beginning to fail. First was the equestrian Jeanne d’Arc avant l’attaque in 1897, followed by the intensely powerful standing figure of the female saint, holding her sword in front of her, lost in prayer. Roux-Foujols records that an edition of only twelve of the equestrian Saint Joan were cast, by the lost wax process, of which number 12, dated 1898, is in the artist’s family collection. Both figures were cast by Nisini, the famous Roman foundry that experimented with Renaissance lost wax casting techniques.

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