Amongst Bonheur’s wide variety of animal sculptures exhibited at the Salon, the most famous is Le Grand Jockey, of which the present cast is a fine example. The sensitivity of the casting which perfectly translates the skilful modelling of the horse is indicative of the close affinity between the sculptor and foundry.
It shows a victorious jockey patting his horse on the neck in congratulation. First exhibited at the 1879 Salon in bronze, under the title Un Jockey, it was displayed alongside another equestrian group, Un Cavalier, époque de Louis XV. Four years later, Bonheur had evidently realised the commercial potential of these models, for he exhibited them again at the Exposition Nationale des Beaux Arts of 1883 and for a third time at the Exposition Universelle of 1889, when he was awarded the prestigious Medaille d`Or.
Casts of Le Grand Jockey were edited in four different sizes. The details of the model are well chased throughout as can be seen by closely inspecting the acutely observed individual veins, tendons and muscles as well as the rider’s jacket and the horse’s mane.
Related literature: Forrest p.227; Lami 1, pp.127-30; Horswell p.209.
Provenance: the estate of an American Olympic horserider, equestrian art collector and daughter of a legendary admiral. The age of the sculpture is unknown, but it has been in the family for many years. Bronze, rich dark brown patina, height 62 cm.