A very rare and dramatic pair of gilt bronze and marble busts of the rival queens Brunehaut (or Brunhilda) of Austrasia and Fredegund of Neustria. The marble busts of the two beautiful protaganists adorned with gilt bronze lion and eagle head dresses depicting their penchant for war. The surface of both the marble and the bronze with excellent colour and fine hand finished detail, signed Carrier Belleuse and raised on verde antico marble plinths
Albert Carrier-Belleuse (French, 1824 ~ 1887) was a Sculptor and draughtsman specialising in groups and busts. He studied under David d’Angers at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he enrolled in 1840. Carrier-Belleuse made his Salon début in 1851. His career took an upward turn in 1861, when his Salve Regina group earned him a bronze medal. A bacchante dating from 1863 helped consolidate a reputation that was confirmed by a Messiah in 1867, which earned him the Salon medal of honour. In that same year, he was also awarded the Légion d’Honneur. Carrier-Belleuse continued to exhibit at the Salon until his death in 1887 in Sèvres, where he worked as artistic director in the porcelain works. Carrier-Belleuse’s style was forthright yet delicate, with a sensitivity that has resulted in his being compared to Clodion.
Brunehaut und Fredegunde by Carrier-Belleuse
For these busts Carrier-Belleuse took inspiration from the history of the Franks and the rivalry between the two main areas of the Frankish kingdom. Neustria comprised most of present-day France, whereas Austrasia comprised eastern present-day France and southern Germany. The division dated back to the early 6th Century and for 200 years the areas were kept in more or less constant warfare.
Two of the protagonists, depicted in these busts, were the rival queens Brunehaut (or Brunhilda) of Austrasia and Fredegund of Neustria. Following a long and bitter war Queen Fredegund’s son, King Clotaire II finally triumphed over Brunhilda and had her tortured and executed but it was another 65 years until the two areas were finally united again.
The animal headdresses do not seem to have any basis in history but are presumably meant to portray the predatory characteristics of the warrior.
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