Paris - Musée d'Orsay: Auguste Clésinger's Femme piquée par un serpent
Femme piquée par un serpent (Woman bitten by a snake), by Jean Baptiste, known as Auguste Clésinger, was executed in 1847.
This statue, along with Thomas Couture's Romains de la décadence, was the cynosure of the 1847 Salon, scandalising the public and the critics alike. Clésinger produced a suggestive image of a naked woman writhing from the pain of a bite inflicted by the symbolic snake twisted around her wrist. As the dimpled flesh at the top of her thighs reveals, he used a plaster cast moulded from life. His model was Baudelaire's muse, Apollonie Sabatier, a Parisian beauty who held a salon in Paris and was familiarly known as "La Présidente".
The practice of moulding a sculpture directly from life was violently criticised in the 19th century, on the grounds that it induced laziness and lack of integrity in the artist. Clésinger kept up excellent relations with Théophile Gautier, who orchestrated the scandal. For Delacroix it was just a "sculpted daguerreotype." Yet the generous curves that offended visitors to the Salon with their realism were combined with more conventional elements: the less expressive idealised face and the ornate pedestal covered with flowers like a bronze clock, making Woman Bitten by a Snake a perfect example of eclecticism in sculpture. The motif of the abandoned body was frequently copied until the end of the century, as is shown by Schoenewerk's sculpture, The Young Tarantine.
The Musée d'Orsay (The Orsay Museum), housed in the former railway station, the Gare d'Orsay, holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography, and is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist masterpieces by popular painters such as Monet and Renoir. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986.