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Aphrodite statue may be a Carrier-Belleuse original

This terra-cotta statue of Aphrodite is by a famous 19th century French artist.
This terra-cotta statue of Aphrodite is by a famous 19th century French artist. TNS

Q: This statue was included in the purchase of a home we bought 15 years ago. It stands 30 inches tall, including the base. It weighs 36 pounds, and I have included pictures of the signature along with a number of other views. I have no idea if it is real or a replica. It looks to be made of terra-cotta. Can you estimate a value?

P. T.

A: Just so we are all on the same page, the signature on the base reads “A. Carrier,” plus something else that is rather hard to read. We believe this to be the signature of French artist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, who was born in 1824 and died in 1887.

Carrier-Belleuse began his working life as an apprentice to a goldsmith, but continued it under the famous artist David d’Angers (born Pierre-Jean David) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Carrier-Belleuse was a prodigious sculptor and ceramist — he worked for Mintons in England and was artistic director of the Manufacture Nationale de Sevres outside of Paris — and created many artworks in both terra-cotta and bronze.

Carrier-Belleuse was a prodigious sculptor and ceramist — he was artistic director of the Manufacture Nationale de Sevres — and created many artworks in both terra-cotta and bronze.

Carrier-Belleuse was such a distinguished artist that Auguste Rodin worked as his assistant between 1864 and 1870.

P. T. may be wondering why we are going on about an artist named Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse when his piece is only marked “A. Carrier.”

The answer is fairly simple. Before 1868, the work of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (not to be confused with his son Pierre, who was a famous painter) was only marked “Carrier” or “A. Carrier,” but after 1868 the artist used his full last name, “Carrier-Belleuse.” Therefore, the piece was first made by Carrier-Belleuse sometime before 1868.

But is the piece in today’s question an original?

We think the answer is yes, but with qualifications. We are encouraged by the size of the piece and at 30 inches (including the base) it is approximately correct for most original Carrier-Belleuse terra-cotta pieces.

Terra-cotta or “terracotta” is Italian for “baked earth” and is a type of earthenware used to make sculptural figures as well as more utilitarian products such as flower pots, bricks and water pipes. Terra-cotta has been made for more than 4,000 years and is said to be the only type of ceramic produced by Westerners and pre-Columbians until the 14th century.

Carrier-Belleuse is known for his neoclassical figures. The woman in the statue may be a representation of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Carrier-Belleuse is known for his neoclassical figures. The woman in the statue may be a representation of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. She is clothed and has her foot on the back of a turtle reminiscent of Aphrodite Ourania in the Louvre.

The piece needs an in-person examination to make sure it is an original. If it is, it should sell for $2,500 to $3,500-plus at auction if it is in perfect condition.

Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email treasures@knology.net. Include a high-resolution, in-focus photo of the subject.

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