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La Liseuse (The Reader)

Carrier-Belleuse, Albert Ernest (1824-1887), c. 1887, Sculpture; bronze and carved ivory

A French sculptor and painter, Carrier-Belleuse began by training as a goldsmith’s apprentice. He then decided to move to the decorative arts and studied briefly at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. From 1850-55 he worked in England, creating ceramic designs for companies such as Minton and Wedgwood. In 1857 Carrier-Belleuse returned to Paris, where Emperor Napoleon III commissioned a number of public projects from him during the rebuilding of Paris. In 1862 Carrier-Belleuse was made an Officer of the Légion d’honneur. Between 1864 and 1870, Auguste Rodin worked with Carrier-Belleuse as an assistant in his workshop. The original of this sculpture won the Grand Prize at the Salon in Brussels and a large number of casts were subsequently made. <i>La Liseuse </i>has no name but is intended to put us in mind of a luxurious, late medieval image of the Virgin Mary. A touch of exoticism is added by the metal patina which on the dress is silver with a gold border, enhancing the rich, brocaded pattern of the fabric. The figure was bought by an LAF member in an antique shop in north Leeds and given anonymously to the LAF in 1966.</span>