Splendid Statuary Carrara marble statue representing « Armida’s dream » by Amand-Désiré-Honoré Barré, 1878 Universal Exhibition

Title engraved on the base: "Armida's dream" (“Le rêve d’Armide”)

Signature on the back of the shield: « am. Barré »

Statuary Carrara marble

The plaster was exhibited for the first time at the Salon of 1873, then the marble statue was exhibited at the Salon of 1875 and at the Universal Exhibition of 1878 in Paris.

H. : 86 cm / 33’’ 7/8 ; W. : 197 cm / 77’’ 9/16 ; D. : 76 cm / 29’’ 15/16

This sumptuous monumental statue was made by the French sculptor Amand-Désiré-Honoré Barré in Statuary Carrara marble to be exhibited at the Salon of 1875 which took place at the Palais des Champs-Elysées in Paris. In 1878, this statue was selected to represent French sculpture at the Universal Exhibition. It represents Armida's dream, an episode inspired by the epic poem written by Torquato Tasso, a 16th-century Italian poet, entitled Jerusalem Delivered. This poem is a fictional narrative of the first Crusade (1096 - 1099) which narrates in particular the story of Armida, an enchanting young Saracen, daughter of the King of Damascus, and Rinaldo, a young Christian knight. Armida, fighting against the Crusaders, seduces them with her beauty and leads them to her island where she turns them into animals. However, although they are enemies, the young witch dreams of Rinaldo, then on his way to Jerusalem, and falls in love with him. Thanks to a spell, she makes him succumb to her charms and locks him in her gardens. The two knights companions of Rinaldo, Ubaldo and Carlo, take advantage of the absence of the princess to pick up the young man and bring him back to his senses. As he flees from this island, Armida tries in vain to hold him back. Once gone, she makes her island disappear and escapes on her magic chariot.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard,
Rinaldo in the gardens of Armida,
oil on canvas, circa 1763, Louvre Museum, Paris.

This poem has inspired many artists, including musicians such as Jean-Baptiste Lully who composed Armida in 1686 and Dvořák who also composes an Armida (1904), as well as painters like Nicolas Poussin, Anton van Dyck and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. However most of these works represent the lovers in Armida’s gardens, together or separating in a heartbreaking way when Rinaldo finally comes to his senses.

Nicolas Poussin, Armida surprising sleeping Rinaldo (London version),
oil on canvas, between 1628 and 1630, Dulwich picture Gallery, London.

The iconography of our sculpture, showing the young Armida dreaming, is therefore quite original.

This sculpture represents Armida and indirectly Rinaldo, who appears in her dreams. The presence of the knight is symbolized by his shield decorated with an eagle (heraldic figure used since the Crusades), his helmet and his sword on which Armida rests. His weapons, deposited and guarded by the young enchantress, symbolize her spell and the fighting stop.
The young woman's hand holds the sword lightly, as if, in spite of her sleep, she makes sure that the young knight stays with her. Her eyes, slightly open, may also suggest that she is looking at her lover. His lascivious position suggests a certain eroticism. The roses and ivy on which the body of the young woman rests indicate that the scene takes place in her gardens.

The details of this sculpture are particularly fine and delicate. Armida’s hair covers almost all the rock. Great attention was paid to the undulations and elements that adorn the top of her head, a rose and a headband. The latter is engraved with geometric patterns that can recall the sobriety of the decorations of Muslim shields at the time of the Crusades.

The work of art title is engraved on one side of the base in a writing reminiscent of medieval calligraphy and thus the time at which the story is supposed to be.

The sculptor signs discreetly under the shield: "am. Barré". Amand-Désiré-Honoré Barré, a sculptor born in the Orne region in France and a student of Victor-Edmond Leharivel-Durocher, was active in Paris in the 1860s and 1870s.

At the Salon of 1873 taking place at the Palais des Champs-Elysées In Paris, Amand Barré exposes, at no. 1507, a plaster of a statue called Le Rêve d'Armide.

For the same year, the french National Archives keeps a document concerning an application for a marble block or a workshop, which is probably done since the marble statue of Armida's dream is exhibited at the Salon of 1875.

« Armida’s dream » at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris

The book Les Beaux-Arts à l’Exposition Universelle de 1878 written by Duval mentions "No. 1082, Armida’s dream, voluptuous study largely treated by Mr. Barré". An old photograph of the Fine Arts Gallery of the 1878 Universal Exhibition that we were able to find reveals a large part of this sculpture in the Trocadero Palace.

This Armida’s dream is a major rediscovery, as much for the 19th-century Art History, as for the knowledge of the works of art presented at the Universal Exhibitions and for the posterity of Amand Barré, a sculptor unjustly unknown.

At the center of the Fine Art Gallery of the 1878 Universal Exhibition, we can see "Armida's dream".

It is however quite true that Amand Barré, with this Armida, is part of an art movement characteristic of his time. Indeed, this sculpture reminds the taste of 19th-century artists for the female nude and especially, the erotic representation of women in sculpture.

In 1847, Auguste Clésinger inaugurates this artistic movement in sculpture with his Woman bitten by a snake, a life-size sculpture that provokes a scandal during its presentation at the Salon.

Auguste Clésinger, Woman bitten by a snake, 1847, marble,
H. 56,5 cm, W. 180 cm, D. 70 cm, Paris, Orsay museum.

Clésinger repeated his tour de force the following year by proposing a statue of a young bacchante revealing a similar posture.

Auguste Clésinger, Reclining Bacchante, 1848, marble,
H. 56,5 cm, W. 200 cm, D. 82 cm, Paris, Petit Palais museum.

This taste for the female nude in sculpture is perpetuated with Alexandre Schoenewerk and his Young Tarentine, which he made in 1870.

Alexandre Schoenewerk, Young Tarentine, 1870, marble,
H. 74 cm, W. 171 cm, D. 68 cm, Paris, Orsay museum.

It is very interesting to note that the Young Tarentine was also exhibited during the 1878 World Fair, just a few meters from Armida’s dream.

In the same way, our statue awakens a feeling of sensuality thanks to the very carnal rendering of Armida's body and her languid pose.

Works of art by Amand-Désiré-Honoré Barré

At the Salon of 1874, the sculptor presented a marble statue, Young fauna discovering horns, No. 2662, a work purchased by the French State and whose plaster had already been exposed in 1869 (No. 3235). It seems that this date marks a turning point in the sculptor career and a beginning of celebrity for the artist since the marble of Armida’s dream is realized the following year.

At the Salon of 1876, Barré presents two plasters The Awakening (Le Réveil) and a portrait of Jules Amigues (n ° 3062 and 3063). At the Salon of 1878, he exhibited the marble of The Awakening (No. 4026) and was awarded an Honorable Mention. This marble statue will be purchased in 1949 to adorn the gardens of the Château of Flers located just a few kilometers from the hometown of Amand-Désiré-Honoré Barré.

View of the Awakening, marble sculpture by Amand Barré, placed in 1949 in front of the Château of Flers.

The posterity of Armida’s dream

Following the 1878 World's Fair, the French State organized an event that was a source of feverish excitement for the people in January 1879, a gigantic national lottery. With 80,000 prizes to win, it was a lottery of unprecedented magnitude. The draw took place over several days. More than 12 million tickets had been sold ! On the first day of the draw, on January 26, 1879, 300 exceptional jackpots are proposed, works of art by major artists such as Gustave Moreau, Schoenewerck, Delaplanche and Meissonnier, diamond rivers and other paintings, sculptures and furniture of great price. Proof of the value of The Armida’s dream statue, it was proposed as thirtieth lot ! Not located since then, this sculpture masterpiece is now rediscovered and its history retraced is a major event.

Draw of the national lottery, January 26, 1879 at the Trocadero Palace, Paris - National Library of France