Baron Henri-Joseph-François de Triqueti (1803-1874) was one of the major sculptors of the nineteenth-century, eminent both in France and England. Born in Conflans, Loiret, not far from Orléans, he was the son of a Piedmontese industrialist and diplomat, and had a privileged, cultured upbringing. In particular, his artistic inclinations were encouraged by the family's neighbour and friend, the Romantic painter Anne-Louis Girodet. Triqueti went on to study under Louis Hersent, and exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1831 onwards, winning a medal for sculpture at his debut. This marked the start of an illustrious career as "one of a new generation of Romantic sculptors who rejected the Neo-classical teaching of the École des Beaux-Arts in favour of learning from medieval and early Renaissance examples" (Lemaistre 416).
Two views of Susan Durant's bust of Triqueti.
[Click on thumbnails to obtain larger images.]
In 1834 Triqueti won the commission for the mighty bronze doors of the Madeleine, and was widely praised for their bas-relief panels when they were installed in 1841. These reliefs have been taken as a political statement in support of the July Monarchy (see Ribner 85-9). But they also show him to have been above all "a great religious sculptor" (Rykner). His success here resulted in his being awarded the Legion of Honour in 1842. The patronage of the princely Orléans family, then at the height of its power, brought him still more fame. For example, he sculpted the effigy for the tomb of the Duke Ferdinand of Orléans in 1842, and was also commissioned to work on Napoleon's tomb at the Invalides.
In 1848, Triqueti, "sculptor to the princes," was injured at the barricades. After his recovery he left for England, where Louis Philippe, King of the French (previously Duke of Orléans), had already sought refuge in the royal residence of Claremont in Surrey. Strong family connections between the exiles and the British royal family brought him into prominence here too: in 1864, Queen Victoria commissioned him to collaborate with Sir George Gilbert Scott on transforming the Wolsey Chapel attached to St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle into the Albert Memorial Chapel (1864-74). Here he worked for most of the rest of his life on the design and execution of its marble ornamentation. Isabelle Lemaistre characterises as Gothic Revival his work on Prince Albert's cenotaph, on which "the recumbent figure of the Prince in medieval armour" rests on "a base adorned by a delicate colonette structure" including statues of the Virtues, figures of angels, and marble portraits of the royal children (417). The effigy was put in place in 1872. This majestic work has been beautifully reproduced in Benedict Read's Victorian Sculpture (see plates 94, 167, 253 and 254).
Triqueti was very versatile: he also worked as a painter and art historian, and prepared educational pieces for apprentices, on such diverse subjects as George Stephenson and Elizabeth Fry. One of his papers was on "The Three Museums of London" (the British Museum, the National Gallery and what is now the V & A), and, since he himself was a Protestant convert, he wrote a book about the history of Protestantism in France. His large tarsia Marmor Homericum is still on display in the cloisters of University College, London; according to Didier Rykner, another was designed for University College Hospital.
Perhaps because his work was so much of its age, and so often grand and "official" in nature, Triqueti's accomplishments have only been properly remembered recently, in a major retrospective held jointly in Le Musée Girodet de Montargis and Le Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans (2007-8), and by the catalogue which accompanied the exhibition. However, the catalogue has been criticised for leaving many aspects of his career unexplored, or inadequately explored, and for not providing a chronology (which would indeed have been helpful; see note below). Rykner concludes, "Much is still needed for a complete understanding of one of the major sculptors of the XIXc." It may be significant that in later life Triqueti adopted the English spelling of his Christian name. Perhaps this was because he already felt that he was more valued in England, for his work at Windsor Castle. However, he is buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (see offsite here).
Triqueti's story does not finish there. His wife Julia Forster was a granddaughter of the eighteenth-century neo-classical sculptor Thomas Banks; Elizabeth Barrett Browning mentions meeting her in a letter from Paris of 28 February 1856. The couple had children, including a daughter Blanche, whom Harriet Beecher Stowe described as "charming" (Stowe 289). But Triqueti also had a young mistress — his pupil and later assistant, the beautiful, gifted and intelligent Susan Durant. Durant bore him a son just a few years before her sudden death (she too is buried in Père Lachaise; see her headstone there, with its rondel by Triqueti). After Triqueti's death in the following year, their orphaned son was brought up by Blanche until her own death from TB in 1886.
Young Henry Paul Harvey Durant was educated first at Rugby and then at New College, Oxford. By then his care had passed to Lady Gregory, the Irish playwright and friend of Yeats. Now known simply as Paul Harvey, he married Lady Gregory's niece in 1896. Although he had dropped his mother's surname, the couple did call their only daughter Susan. Harvey had an extremely distinguished career at home and abroad in the civil service, and was knighted in 1911. After retiring with many honours, he became famous in an entirely different field, as the author of the much-loved Oxford Companion to English Literature (1832; not superseded until Margaret Drabble's edition of 1985, in which many of his original entries remain unchanged). He also prepared the Oxford Companions to French and classical literature. It is very pleasing to think that this was the outcome of the Triqueti-Durant relationship.
A Note on the year of the sculptor's birth
The New York Times obituary gave the year of Triqueti's birth as 1802, Lemaistre in The Grove History of Art has 1804, and a number of art galleries and other art sites on the web, like artnet, have 1807. However, the catalogue of the 2007/8 major exhibition, in the locality of his birth, must be presumed to be accurate. There are other areas of confusion, too. For example, Jason Tomes in the ODNB says that Harvey was Triqueti's "only child," although Harriet Beecher Stowe not only met his daughter Blanche but was invited to the Triquetis' on her nineteenth birthday, when she described Blanche as their "eldest daughter" (290). Blanche is also clearly identified as Triqueti's daughter in "La Madeleine — Tra committenza civile e iconografia religiosa." This useful piece, which includes details of Triqueti's travels in Italy, for example, is on the website of the Museo Vela, Ligornetto, in Switzerland.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Letters, Vol. II (1806-1856). Ed. Frederic E. Kenyon. 3rd ed. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1898. Available here.
Garrihy, Andrea. "Durant, Susan Durant (1827-1873)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Viewed 29 March 2009.
Lemaistre, Isabelle. Entry on Triqueti. From Monet to Cézanne (The Grove History of Art), ed. Jane Turner. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 416-17.
New York Times Obituary ("Baron Triqueti, Sculptor"), May 18, 1874.
Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1982.
Ribner, Jonathan P. Broken Tablets: The Cult of the Law in French Art from David to Delacroix. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Available offsite here.
Rykner, Didier. "Henry de Triqueti (1803-1874)." This is a review of the catalogue for the 2007-8 exhibition in France. It has small images of the doors when shut, as well as of the wonderful Triqueti Marbles.
Stowe, Charles Edward. The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Compiled from her Letters and Journals by her Son. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin (Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press), 1889. Available here.
Tomes, Jason. "Harvey, Sir (Henry) Paul (1869-1948)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Viewed 29 March 2009.
Last modified 9 May 2010