Ferdinand Barbedienne was one of the most famous bronze founders of the 19th century. He was born on August 6, 1810 in L’Oudon, France, and began his career as a wallpaper dealer in Paris. In 1838, he started a foundry with the artist Achille Collas, selling miniatures of antique statues from the collections of major European museums. A talented metalworker and craftsman, he became known for his meticulous eye to detail and for his reproductions, particularly those of Auguste Rodin and Antoine-Louis Barye. This foundry produced a notable array of items, from bronze to woodwork and other trades, quickly putting Barbedienne’s name to a great variety of works, such as furnishing in particular. The Barbedienne Foundry attended every World Fair of its time, and was regularly honoured, notably at the World's Fair of 1855 where it was awarded the Great Medal of Honor and in 1865 Barbidienne was made the President of the Reunion of Bronze Makers.
Then in 1859 Achille Collas died leaving Barbedienne as the sole owner of the foundry, which by that time had over 300 workers. As a true Romantic, Ferdinand Barbedienne was committed to democratisation of arts, creating numerous works and editions that were loved by the bourgeois of the time. A great deal of famous sculptures we sometimes see today are hence cast by the Barbedienne Foundry.
All his life, Barbedienne co-worked with the greatest artists, sculptors or designers of his time such as Antoine Louis Barye as well as others. In 1876 Barbedienne purchased 125 casting models from Antoine Louis Barye's bankruptcy sale. The editions he produced of these sculptures were very successful, known for their superb craftsmanship and detailing. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war caused the foundry to cease manufacturing due to a shortage of metals, but Barbedienne received a contract from the French government for the production of cannons, allowing business to resume after the end of the war.
Ferdinand Barbedienne died on March 21 1891 in Paris and was mourned by many in the world of sculpture. He strove to the highest quality in his castings and was awarded many medals in numerous international expositions. Albert Susse said of him that he was the "pride of the nation" and that that he "carried the splendor of our industry so loftily to all international competitions". The running of the foundry was taken over by Gustave Leblanc, a nephew, and continued the high standards set by M. Barbedienne. The foundry set up agencies in Germany, Britain, and the United States to market their production. Leblanc actively purchased models and production rights form sculptors including Auguste Rodin and the estates of other notble sculptors of the time. The foundry continued under the stewardship of M. Leblanc until 1952 when it closed its doors for the last time.