Carved & Gilded Figure of Napoleon
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American or Continental, 19th Century - Sold
Hardwood with gilding, inscribed underneath 'J.S. SOUEL / FECIT'
11 1/2” x 3” x 3”
This example of Napoleon, shown here in a cavalry uniform with arms crossed in front of his body instead of in his more
frequently depicted pose with one hand inside his jacket, is unique both in the atypical pose as well as in the detail of the carving. From the medals on his jacket to the eagle insignia on the base beneath him, the artist took great pains to represent him with great clarity.
Among the various subjects for wood carvers to choose to execute with their skill, perhaps none are as immediately identifiable as figures that have occupied an important place on the world stage, and the variety of surviving examples is endless. The identity of J.S. Souel is unknown, but the inscription on the underside of the base indicates that he carved this figure. Carvers who were not likely to
have been fortunate to be in the presence of their subjects had to rely on print sources. A lithograph of Napoleon done by A. Lille, circa 1840s closely resembles the figure here, and may have served as the model for J.S. Souel.
For a brief example of the variety of carved historical figures, see Jean Lipman, American Folk Art in Wood, Metal and Stone (New York, 1948), nos. 154-156 and Jean Lipman and Alice Winchester, The Flowering of American Folk Art, (New York, 1974), p. 125, fig. 166.
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