Ref. 1259

E. Cornu


G. Viot et Cie

Compagnie des marbres Onyx d’Algérie
(Active from 2nd part of 19th century)

Neo-Greek Bust

Signed Machauld et Eug. Cornu – G. Viot et Cie Fondeurs

Circa 1867

Height : 64 cm (25 in.) ; Base : 22 x 21 cm (8,6 x 8,2 in.)

Beautiful neo-Greek bust in silvered bronze and gilt bronze enhanced with polychrome enamels on a red marble baluster-shape base. It shows a woman draped in the Ancient style adorned with rich jewellery.

The splendour of the bust is due to the association of different materials and techniques. The silvered bronze flesh with oxidised reflections, mounted with polychrome enamel jewellery, and the gilt bronze ribbons and drapery illustrate the conjunction of materials often made by artists in the 19th century.

This bust illustrates the neo-Greek style developed in France in the 19th century. Inspired from the Greek Antiquity, this style used Ancient features to create new artworks by re-interpreting Ancient inspirations with modern taste.

The Ancient inspiration can first be seen with the drapery on her chest, which reminds the drapery of Greek statues. Moreover the jewellery she wears include an Ancient motif : the lion face on the brooch reminds the one which can be seen on antique jewels, and her necklace, diadem and ribbons are adorned with Ancient Greek features such as friezes and palms.

Sans titre

Stand of the Société des Marbres et Onyx d’Algérie, 1878 Universal Exhibition,

(reproduced in Les Merveilles de l’Exposition de 1878, p. 561).


Eugène Cornu (1827-1875) : this sculptor first worked as a designer and then director for the renowned company Tahan. He then worked closely with the “Compagnie des Marbres Onyx d’Algérie”, led by Gustave Viot, successor of Alphonse Pallu. They produced luxurious furniture and art objects, incorporating onyx marble and bronze, with sometimes enamel, a combination then considered as a novelty and become quickly highly prized among wealthy collectors. They both showed at the 1867 Universal Exhibition held in Paris a fine pair of onyx, bronze and enamel vases for which Cornu and Viot won the Gold Medal. Around 1873, Eugène Cornu became director of the Company, which took then the name of “Société des Onyx d’Algérie E. Cornu et Cie”.

Paul-François Machauld (born in 1835) : he was taught by the sculptor Pierre-Charles Simart (1806-1857), who made the tombstone of Napoleon I, and whom himself had as masters Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and James Pradier (1790-1852). P.-F. Machauld then started his career as a sculptor at the 1864 Salon.

Société G. Viot et Cie (in activity since 1865) : set up about 1850 Boulevard des Italiens in Paris, this firm was also named “Compagnie des Marbres Onyx d’Algérie” and exploited onyx mines near Oran. The firm specialized in luxuous furniture and art objects, incorporating onyx marbles and bronze. The firm G. Viot & Cie produced works after models created by the most well-known sculptors, such Albert Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887), Charles Cordier (1827-1905), Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841-1905) or Eugène Cornu, which awarded Viot medals at the various exhibitions. E. Cornu then led the firm before H. Journet, who gave it his name in 1878 and headed it.


– Rapport du Jury International, Exposition Universelle de 1867 à Paris, 1868, t. III, group III, class XV, chapter II, §2, p. 45-46.

– 1851-1900, Le arti decorative alle grandi esposizioni universali, Daniel Alcouffe, Marc Bascou, Anne Dion-Tenenbaum and Philippe Thiébaut, Idealibri, 1988, p. 136-138.

– Les merveilles de l’Exposition de 1878, Paris, p. 561.


Bust of George Washington in marble and onyx marble, by E. Cornu, preserved at the De Young Museum, San Francisco (Inv. 49440a-b).

– Oriental style cup in onyx marble with enamelled gilt bronze mounts, by the Compagnie des Marbres Onyx d’Algérie and F. Barbedienne, preserved at Compiègne Palace (Inv. C 71-122).

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