A Sensual Art Nouveau Masterwork

The newly built L'Ecole de Médecine in Bordeaux commissioned the original version of this sculpture from Louis-Ernest Barrias in 1899. It depicts nature as a beautiful young woman removing a veil, her gown pinned with a scarab. Carved of marble, polychrome onyx, and lapis lazuli, it was so well-received that the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris requested one to grace their ceremonial staircase. The statue became so popular that many copies were made in varying sizes and media, including bronze like the present lot. Historian Carolyn Merchant notes that the sculpture embodied the changing conceptions of nature brought on by the Scientific Revolution: "From an active teacher and parent, she [Nature] has become a mindless, submissive body."

The original La Nature se dévoilant à la Science in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris