Guillaume Coustou II

Guillaume Coustou II (the Younger), “Ganymede”, circa 1760, Marble,  152.5 cm, Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington

Born in Paris in March of 1716, Guillaume Coustou II, or the Younger, was a French sculptor of the late French Baroque and early Neo-Classical period. He was the son of Guillaume Coustou, royal sculptor to Louis XIV and his successor Louis XV, and nephew to sculptor Nicolas Coustou, chancellor of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris. Guillaume Coustou II initially trained at the family’s atelier, during which time his work earned him the 1735 Prix de Rome.  

Guillaume Coustou II relocated to Rome where he studied from 1736 to 1739 at the French Academy in Rome. As his father was too infirm to carry out commissions for the royal residence at Château de Marly, he returned to Paris in 1739 where he worked on the “Horse Trainers”, two full-size Carrara marble sculpted groups showing rearing horses with their groom. Completed in two years and installed at Marly in 1745, Coustou’s sculptures were moved twice, first in 1794 to Paris’s Place de la Concorde and finally in 1984 to a former courtyard, now the Cour Marly, in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre Museum.

Guillaume Coustou II was accepted in 1742 as a member at the Academy of Painting and Sculpture and began a successful career as a sculptor. He worked fluently in the contemporary styles of French art. During the late Baroque period, Coustou sculpted his 1742 “Seated Vulcan”, a sixty-nine cm tall marble figure of the Greek god of fire as a reception piece for the French Royal Academy. While during the sentimental early Neo-Classical period in France, he created his circa 1760 marble “Ganymede”. 

Ganymede is a divine Greek hero whose homeland was Troy; he was the most beautiful of mortals and was abducted by the god Jupiter, taking the form of an eagle, to serve as Zeus’s wine cup-bearer in Mount Olympus. The myth, popular with French eighteenth-century artists, was largely known to them from Roman poet Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. Housed in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Coustou’s marble “Ganymede”, at 152 cm in height, stands with his weight on his left foot with right knee slightly bent. His right had holds a shallow cup and his left is place affectionately on an eagle perched on the tree trunk supporting the figure on the right.

Guillaume Coustou II produced portrait busts as well as his mythological and religious subjects. His most prominent and ambitious official commission was the “Tomb of Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie-Josephe of Saxony” for the Catholic cathedral in Sens, Burgundy, eastern France. The original design for the monument was created by the engraver and art critic Charles-Nicolas Cochin, who from 1755 to 1770 had the title of the King’s Administrator of the Arts. The monument was started by Coustou and later finished by his pupil, Rococo and Neo-Classical sculptor Pierre Julien who had studied at Coustou’s atelier.  

Among the pupils Guillaume Coustou II taught in his atelier and at the Academy were Claude Dejoux, who became an academician at the Royal Academy and sculptor to King Louis XVI of France; Pierre Julien, one of the original members of the Institut de France and a chevalier of the Legion of Honor; and Dutch sculptor Johannes Widewelt who became royal sculptor to the Danish Court in 1759 and known for his fifty-four monuments on the grounds of Crown Prince Frederik the Fifth’s Jægerspris Castle in eastern Denmark. 

Guillaume Coustou II passed away in Paris on the 13th of July in 1777.

Top Insert Image: François-Hubert Drouais, “Guillaume Coustou the Younger”, 1758, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 97 cm, Palace of Versailles, France

Second Insert Image: Guillaume Coustou II (the Younger), “Ganymede”, circa 1760, Marble, 152.5 cm, Victoria &Albert Museum, South Kensington, Niche View

Bottom Insert Image: Guillaume Coustou II (the Younger), “Apollo”, 1753, Marble, 180 x 80 cm, Chateau Versailles, France

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