(1855 Lyon – Paris 1894)
Mask of a grotesque
Beige enameled stoneware
24 x 25 cm
One of the most original French sculptors of the 19th century, Jean Carriès, a friend of Dalou and admired by Rodin, died at the height of his glory only to fall into relative oblivion. He has only recently emerged from it, to see his work consecrated anew by the inauguration of a new room at the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris and by the large exhibition that took place in 2007.
Fascinated by the “epidermis” of his works, their material substance and patina, it was toward stoneware that Carriès would turn in the second half of the 1880s. He discovered this material, “the male of porcelain,” as he said, at the Exposition Universelle of 1878, where it was represented in all of its subtlety in the work of Japanese potters.
The blending of the medieval vocabulary and the Japanese art of stoneware would lead Carriès around 1890 to produce an astonishing and emblematic series of masks whose exacerbated, mannerist expressivity reveals the very essence of the human soul.
Our mask, never reproduced, for perhaps given by Carriès to a friend, as he often did, is very probably a study for a flask, give its shape and the notching around the edges. The face has a facetious smile and can’t help but recall the personality of Carriès himself, sometimes grave and anxious, then a second later, mischievous and laughing.
The subtle color of the enameling and the way the glazes play against one another are typical of his work, ever experimenting with technique and perfection of form.
Our mask can be compared to those decorating the flasks in the Musée du Petit Palais, in Paris and at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, as well as those of a Mask at the Petit Palais, whose ironic expression is very similar.