fig.1
Emmanuel Frémiet

Early in 1905 the National Gallery of Victoria’s director, Bernard Hall, charged with making the first purchases for Melbourne under the terms of the newly granted Felton Bequest, travelled to England and Europe. In Paris, aside from meeting Auguste Rodin, Hall visited the studio of ‘without doubt the greatest living master in equestrian groups’.1 B. Hall, ‘Report to the Chairman of the National Gallery Committee’, 27 July 1905, National Gallery of Victoria, Shaw Research Library. This was Emmanuel Frémiet (1824–1910), from whom Hall commissioned a life-size copy of the artist’s famous sculpture Joan of Arc, 1874, the gleaming gilt-bronze original of which graced the Place des Pyramides in the French capital.2 Emmanuel Frémiet, Joan of Arc, 1889 version of an 1874 concept, cast 1905–6, bronze, 385.0 x 305.0 x 115.0 cm, National Gallery of Victoria,Felton Bequest, 1907. Frémiet’s Joan of Arc was installed at the entrance to the former premises of the National Gallery of Victoria (now the State Library of Victoria) in February 1907, where it remains to this day.

After consigning this new cast of the Joan of Arc to Melbourne in late 1906, Frémiet wrote to tell Bernard Hall that:

I must tell you why a second sculpture accompanies the Joan of Arc, in a separate crate. This bronze represents a gorilla carrying off a woman, and here is an explanation of its presence. When I billed you for the Joan of Arc, I had expected the work to be gilded. After you abandoned the idea of gilding the statue, I thought I would make up the difference in price by sending my Gorilla to your Museum. It’s at once good accountancy, and my pleasure, to present you with one of the great characters of my art.3 Frémiet to Bernard Hall, Paris, 13 December 1906; letter annotated as received in Melbourne on 5 February 1907. Bernard Hall Archives, National Gallery of Australia Research Library, Canberra, box 2, item 223.

Frémiet penned an engaging drawing of the stowaway onto his letter (fig. 7), a sketch of his famous bronze statuette of the Gorille enlevant une femme (Gorilla carrying off a woman), a reduced version of the plaster sculpture that had brought him both notoriety and fame at the Paris Salon of 1887 (fig. 1).

While Emmanuel Frémiet’s profile has declined considerably in the English-speaking world since his death in 1910, during his life he established a national and international reputation as a master sculptor that was maintained over more than six decades.4 Frémiet’s life and works are recorded in four principal sources. The first of these, by his close friend the American T. H. Bartlett, published in a long series of articles in the American Architect and Building News in 1891, is virtually a dictated autobiography of the artist, providing an invaluable first-hand account of his life to that point. See T. H. Bartlett,’Emmanuel Frémiet’, The American Architect and Building News, vol. XXXI, no. 788, 1891, pp. 72–3; no. 790, 1891, pp. 101–3; no. 792, 1891, pp. 134–7; no. 794, 1891, pp. 172–4; no. 796, 1891, pp. 201–4; no. 798, 1891, pp. 24–8; no. 801,1891, pp. 70–2; no. 804, 1891, pp. 113–5; no. 805, 1891, pp. 129–31. Less personal, but also citing extensive interviews with Frémiet, is the somewhat rambling study by Jacques de Biez, serialised in the journal L’Artiste between 1892 and 1895, then published as a monograph in 1896 (and reissued in 1910). See J. de Biez, Un Maître imagier. E. Frémiet, Paris, 1896; and E. Frémiet, Paris, 1910. After the artist’s death, apart from a short study by Philippe Fauré-Fremiet, publishing on him petered out until Catherine Chevillot’s excellent exhibition La Main et le multiple at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, in 1988, which offered the first systematic cataloguing of his works. P. Faure-Fremiet, Les Maîtres de l’art. Fremiet, Paris, 1934; C. Chevillot, Emmanuel Frémiet, 1824–1910. La Main et le multiple, Musée des beaux-arts de Dijon, 1988. It should be noted that the spelling of the artist’s surname varies. It appears as Frémiet in many texts published during the artist’s lifetime, including the monographic studies of Bartlett and De Biez. However, the artist often signed his letters as Fremiet, with no accent; and this orthography was adopted by both Philippe Fauré-Fremiet and Catherine Chevillot. The appearance or not of the é accent in the references cited in this article reflects the usage adopted in each instance.

Beginning in 1843, Frémiet caught the imagination of visitors to the annual Paris Salon with life-size plaster sculptures of both wild and domestic animals that were astonishing in their mimetic fidelity and lifelike veracity. These brought him increasing critical acclaim and the financial reward of official patronage. Frémiet’s three-dimensional renderings of domestic pets proved especially popular, such as his Ravageot et Ravageode, a delightful pair of basset hounds that were first seen as a plaster at the 1848 Salon, reappeared as a bronze belonging to the French State at the 1853 Salon, and made a triumphant public swansong at the Exposition Universelle of 1855. The verisimilitude with which Frémiet modelled Ravageot and Ravageode’s fur, collars and snuffling stances led one critic to exclaim that these were ‘portraits of perfect truthfulness’.5 P. Pétroz, in La Presse, 1855; cited by Odille Picard-Sébastiani, in L’Art en France sous le second empire, (Grand Palais, 11 May–13 August 1979), Paris, 1979, cat. no. 154, p. 278.

In 1859 Emmanuel Frémiet alarmed the jury of the Paris Salon, however, by submitting a larger than life-size plaster composition, Gorille enlevant une négresse (Gorilla carrying off a Negress) (fig. 2). This work was found to be too confronting for both its graphic violence, and its proximity to current debates about evolution, 1859 being the year that Charles Darwin published his landmark On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Frémiet himself recalled:

At a time when a lot of noise was being made about mankind and apes being brothers, it was an audacious idea; and my work proved even more aggravating since, the gorilla being the ugliest of all the primates, the comparison was hardly flattering for humans. With great recklessness, this gorilla was dragging off a young woman. Since the young woman in question was a Negress, I thought my gorilla might pass. This was not to be. The jury’s condemnation was unanimous. My work was declared to be seriously offensive to public morality, and it was banished pitilessly from the Salon.6 Frémiet, interviewed in Thiébault-Sisson, ‘Au jour le jour, une vie d’artiste. Emmanuel Frémiet’, Le Temps, 3 January 1896; reprinted in Chevillot, 1988, p. 187. Since Frémiet’s first gorilla composition was not included in the published catalogue listing of the 1859 Salon, variants of its title occur in the literature on the artist. In 1898 Étienne Bricon referred to the work as Gorille traînant le cadavre d’une femme (Gorilla dragging along a female cadavre); E. Bricon, ‘Frémiet (premier article, Gazette des beaux-arts, vol. XIX, 1898, p. 502. Bartlett does not give the work a specific title, while De Biez refers to it as Gorille femelle emportant une négresse (Female gorilla making away with a Negress). The title used in this article is that employed by Chevillot, Gorilla enlevant une négresse (Gorilla carrying off a Negress). Similarly, Chevillot’s title Gorilla enlevant une femme (Gorilla carrying off a woman) has been employed for the 1887 version of Frémiet’s composition. It should be noted too that while the jury rejected Frémiet’s first Gorille, nine other sculptures by the artist were officially accepted for inclusion in the Salon of 1859; all of these were eclipsed, however, by the succès-de-scandale of the Gorille.

Frémiet’s comments here, of course, reflect the inherent racism of his day. While the dramatic narrative of his gorilla sculpture inevitably recalled time-honoured classical tropes like the Rape of the Sabine Women, it would have been unthinkable in 1859 for him to image a Caucasian woman in the gorilla’s grasp, in this contemporaneous setting and with such brutal realism.

Due to the swift intervention of Alfred, Comte de Nieuwerkerke, the chief arts administrator under Napoleon III and a firm supporter of Frémiet, a place was found for the artist’s sculpture regardless, despite its official rejection from the items accepted into the Salon proper. The Gorille was installed towards the entrance of the Salon’s sculpture section, set back in a niche behind heavy green velvet curtains. While the conservative jury surely hoped to thus marginalise the work, this special treatment – or maltreatment – served to create a cause célèbre out of Frémiet’s sculpture. Parting these curtains to obtain a glimpse of the censored work became de rigueur for adult visitors to that year’s Salon. Women, the artist recalled, were especially titillated by the experience, while the jury ‘squawked like peacocks’. The controversy aroused by this provocative sculpture was satirised by the photographer Nadar, who was still also working as a caricaturist at this date, in a cartoon showing a gorilla toting a matchstick-thin woman, and captioned: ‘He’s carrying a little lady off into the woods, to eat her. Since Mr Frémiet did not deign to say what sauce she was to be served with, the jury has used this culinary excuse to refuse this intriguing work’.7 Nadar cartoon and caption, cited in Fauré-Fremiet, 1934, p. 69.

Frémiet’s composition, now known only from photographs, was certainly confronting in its depiction of a dead African woman being dragged mercilessly back to the killer gorilla’s lair offstage. The sculpture not only imaged a murder, but also seemed to allude to ravishment, visualising many people’s worst fears of the planet’s largest and most human-seeming primate. As Jacques de Biez noted succinctly, ‘this being the empathetic animal sculptor’s first ape, people were expecting something other than an ape from one’s nightmares’.8 De Biez, p. 99.

Although the base of Frémiet’s plaster was prominently engraved with the words ‘Gorille femelle’, or ‘Female gorilla’, the ape tended to be generally read as male, adding a disturbingly sexual, even possibly necrophiliac element to Frémiet’s conception. Reading the work in this way, Charles Baudelaire took exception to the blunt realism of Frémiet’s creation. While respectful of Frémiet himself, Baudelaire’s ‘Salon of 1859’, published in the Revue française, contained a stern censure of the artist’s work:

Why are we not given a crocodile, a tiger, or any other wild animal that might eat a woman? Because this is not about eating, but rape! It is the ape alone, this gigantic ape at once so much more and less than a man, which has at times shown a human appetite for women … To be honest, such subjects are beneath the dignity of so talented an artist, and the jury has done well to reject this sordid topic.9 C. Baudelaire, ‘Salon de 1859’, in Charles Baudelaire: Critique d’Art, e edu. C. Pichois, Paris, 1965, p. 371. Another English translation of this text can be found in Art in Paris 1845–1862. Salons and Other Exhibitions Reviewed by Charles Baudelaire, J. Mayne trans. and ed., London, 1965, p. 209. While not sexualising the scenario, and writing some thirty years after the event, Bartlett also assumed Frémiet’s 1859 figure to be male, referring to ‘a Gorilla, dragging after him the dead body of a woman, that he had captured and killed’. Bartlett, vol. XXXI, no. 792, 1891, p. 136.

Aside from its perceived man-eating or libidinous connotations, Frémiet’s Female gorilla carrying off a Negress was shocking simply because of its depiction, at a larger than life-size scale, of an entirely new and hotly debated species of primate, no living example of which had yet been seen in the French capital.

A large species of anthropoid ape had been rumoured to exist on the western coast of Africa, especially near Gabon, since the late 1500s. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while advances were made in the ‘discovery’ and analysis of the chimpanzee and the orang-utan by Western naturalists, confusion still reigned concerning both their relationship to each other, and to consistent reports of a possible third anthropoid species in Africa.10 One of the best accounts of the emergence of the gorilla from legend to dissecting table remains the near-contemporaneous text of Thomas Huxley, Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, London, 1863, pp. 1-54. See also H. W. Janson, Apes and Ape Lore, London, 1952, pp. 327–54; and R. M. Yerkes & A. W. Yerkes, The Great Apes: A Study of Anthropoid Life, New Haven, 1929, pp. 7–35. When a live orang-utan arrived in Paris in the summer of 1836, its presence afforded a quantum leap in primate studies by naturalists at the Museum d’histoire naturelle (Natural History Museum), especially the museum’s renowned Professor of Comparative Anatomy, Henri-Marie Ducrotay de Blainville.11 See ‘L’Orang-outang au Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Paris’, Magasin pittoresque, July 1836, pp. 223–4. Prior to this, the museum had possessed only a stuffed orang-utan skin and its skeleton, which had been donated by the empress Joséphine; these were the remains of a female of the species, which had been presented to the Empress by the French naval officer Decaen in March 1808 and which survived for only some months at Malmaison. This female orang-utan had been illustrated by Jacques-Christophe Werner and described in E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire & F. Cuvier, Histoire naturelle des mammifères, Paris, 1824, vol 1, pp. 1–7.

The gorilla itself remained scientifically unknown to Europe or America until 1847 when, during a visit to Gabon, the American Protestant clergyman and missionary physician Thomas Staughton Savage had acquired a curiously large ape skull from another clergyman, J. L. Wilson. He shared this discovery with his friend Jeffries Wyman, the freshly appointed Hersey Professor of Anatomy at Harvard University. Together, Savage and Wyman published their findings in the Boston Journal of Natural History in

December 1847, naming their newly described species Troglodytes gorilla (Savage), in order to distinguish it from the Troglodytes niger or chimpanzee (on which Savage and Wyman had already published a study in 1843–44). Savage and Wyman chose the name gorilla from the ancient account of hairy creatures seen by Hanno of Carthage in the fifth century BC, calling it ‘a term used by Hanno, in describing the “wild men” found on the coast of Africa, probably one of the species of the Orang’.12 T. S. Savage, ‘Notice of the external characters and habits of Troglodytes Gorilla, a new species of Orang from the Gaboon River’; J. Wyman,’Osteology of the same’, Boston Journal of Natural History, vol. 5, no. 4, December 1847, pp. 417–3 (pp. 419–20). While sharing overall joint authorship in its introductory and concluding remarks, this paper was divided into two key sections, ‘Notice of the external characters and habits of the Engé-ena’ by Savage (pp. 420–26), and ‘Description of the crania and some of the bones of the Engé-ena’ by Wyman (pp. 426–36). An abridged version of these seminal texts was reprinted in Science in America: Historical Selections, J. C. Burnham ed., New York 1971, pp. 115–27. The scientific world instantly took notice, and the hunt was on for more specimens of this immediately controversial new species of primate, which was to play a central part in the evolutionary debates that were about to engulf the Western world.

The first gorilla remains to arrive in France were offered to the Frémiet’s in Muséum d’histoire 1849 by a M. Gautier-Laboulaye of the French navy. These consisted of the full skeleton of an adult female, along with the skulls of another male and female subject, which Gautier-Laboulaye had collected in the Gabon. Lithographs after these specimens, signed by Jacques-Christophe Werner, appeared in that same year as supplements to a fascicule of De Blainville’s monumental comparative study of fossilised and living vertebrates, the celebrated Ostéographie (1839–1855) – the first images of any aspect of the gorilla to be published in France (fig. 3). The complete female skeleton, of a hitherto unseen species, fascinated De Blainville, who was preoccupied with its study at the time of his death in 1850.13 Werner’s lithographs and an account of the arrival of these specimens in Paris were reprinted in the last, posthumously published volume of De Blainville’s opus. See H.-M. D. de Blainville, Ostéographie, ou, description iconographique comparée du squelette et du systéme dentaire des cinq classes d’animaux verterbrés récents at fossiles pour servir de base à la Zoologie et à la Géologie. Ouvrage accompagné de planches lithographiées sous sa direction par M. J.–C. Werner, peintre du Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Paris, Paris, vol. IV, 1855, pp. 81–2. Here it was noted that the lithographs first appeared in a fascicle supplement to De Blainville’s Ostéographie, published in 1849.

In 1851 the Muséum d’histoire naturelle gazumped the rest of Europe in this new field of study by receiving the first two whole gorilla bodies seen in the West. Preserved in alcohol and shipped back from Gabon by Captain Penaud of the Eldorado, these were a baby of the species (boarded as a live passenger, then embalmed in liquid after its sad demise), and a full-grown male specimen that had been secured by M. Franquet, a French naval doctor. On 19 January 1852 Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Professor of Zoology (Mammals and Birds) at the museum, read the first paper on these gorilla bodies to the Académie des Sciences in Paris. He noted that Franquet had measured the adult male, prior to its alcoholic distillation, as reaching to 1.67 metres in height, a grandeur of stature that he illustrated dramatically with a life-size profile drawing of the creature by Jacques-Christophe Werner, as well as photographic studies of both newly arrived specimens, taken by the museum’s chemical preparator, M. Terreil. Lithographic studies after Terreil’s daguerreotypes were soon published by the museum. These infant and adult gorilla males had arrived in Paris at a time when, as the popular Magasin pittoresque journal reported, there was ‘nothing yet understood about the behaviour of this … the largest of all known species of ape’. The Magasin went on to remark tantalisingly that the museum’s study of these preserved gorillas ‘will enable us to judge to a real degree the resemblances between this ape and creation’s highest order, man’. Eugène Bocourt’s vivid drawing of these pickled primates breathed miraculous life into their photographed remains for the Magasin pittoresque, an astonishing achievement for the time (fig. 4). One branch of science being wed with another, a photograph of one of the museum’s new gorilla specimens, taken by Louis-Amédée Mante, was also included in Rousseau and Déveria’s early corpus of animal photography, the Photographie zoologique of 1853.14 I. G. Saint-Hilaire, ‘Note sur le gorille’, Annales des sciences naturelles. Zoologie, series 3, vol. 16, Paris 1851, pp. 154–8. In this special ‘gorilla issue’ the Annales also reprinted summaries of recent studies on the osteology of the gorilla by Richard Owen (Hunterian Lecturer in Comparative Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, London). See ‘Le Gorille’, Magasin pittoresque, September 1852, pp. 297–8. L. F. E. Rousseau & A. Déveria, Photographie zoologique ou représentation des animaux rares des collections du Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Paris & London, 1853–54. This publication, which appeared in a number of livraisons, included both original salted-paper photographs and plates reproduced by photogravure. See also J. Rosen, ‘Naming and framing “Nature” in Photographie zoologique’, Word & Image, vol. 13, no. 4, October-December 1997, pp. 377–91.

By a happy serendipity, Emmanuel Frémiet’s unique background placed him in a perfect position to extend Bocourt’s and Mante’s representations of the gorilla still further, into the third dimension. As a more scientifically than academically trained artist, no French sculptor could have been better situated at this time to take on the Troglodytes gorilla.

While he was still barely a boy, the young Frémiet came close to experiencing a disadvantaged life following the separation of his parents and the financial hardship this brought to a low-income household in 1830s Paris. His saviour appeared at this time, as so often in his career, in the form of his devoted and self-sacrificing mother. In 1840, when Frémiet had turned sixteen, Mme Frémiet helped her son to secure an apprenticeship with Jacques-Christophe Werner (1798–1856), a principal painter at the Muséum d’histoire naturelle. Earlier in the century Werner had worked with the museum’s distinguished Professor of Vertebrate Zoology, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, on the mammoth Histoire naturelle des mammifères (Natural History of Mammals) and, in 1840, he was engaged in overseeing production of the illustrations for two more of the nineteenth century’s seminal natural history publications, Coenraad-Jacob Temminck’s Les Oiseaux d´Europe (Atlas of the Birds of Europe) and Henri-Marie Ducrotay de Blainville’s Ostéographie.

Under Werner’s tutelage, Frémiet at first spent eight hours a day drawing careful studies of animal bones onto lithographic stones, a grinding chore that instilled in him a lifelong attention to strict accuracy. Bartlett noted:

The constant task of drawing bones of all kinds with the most perfect exactitude for scientific purposes, often with the aid of a magnifying-glass, gave him insensibly and unconsciously a power of precision, a depth of observation, a correctness of eye and an appreciation and understanding of values that he could never have obtained in any other way. It helped him to become one of the greatest constructive sculptors of any age.15 Bartlett, vol. XXXI, no. 788, 1891, p. 73.

Jacques de Biez also commented aptly that Werner’s studio at the museum was ‘more an anatomical laboratory’, and that Frémiet’s work there ‘bore only the slightest relation to any ordinary artist’s education’.16 De Biez, 1910, P. 21. Werner’s teachings, and the numerous other contacts Frémiet made at the museum, introduced the young artist to the still-new sciences of the study of fossils and prehistoric artefacts, adumbrating Darwinian theory for him. With Werner’s approval, Frémiet began to also top and tail his lithographic studies in osteology with other pursuits, drawing the many live animals housed in the museum’s adjacent menageries at the Jardin des plantes before the start of his working day, and trying his hand after work at both anatomical dissections and at modelling three-dimensional bird and animal forms from clay. This extended regimen suited Frémiet’s workaholic nature, a character trait that underlay his prolific sculptural output during his career, as well as the intellectual rigour that remains its enduring hallmark.

From 1842 to 1844 Frémiet also supplemented the anatomical and scientific training he was receiving at the museum with study (paid for by Mme Frémiet’s night work as a seamstress) with the celebrated sculptor François Rude, an artist best remembered for his massive Departure of the volunteers in 1792 on the Arc de Triomphe (a work that has since become more popularly known as La Marseillaise). Rejecting notions of the ideal in sculpture, in his atelier Rude preached a happy marriage of empirical observation with mathematical precision, imparting to his pupils a faith in measurements, proportion and physically weighed mass. It was Rude’s emphasis on mathematical observations that was to become Frémiet’s personal credo. Commenting decades later upon how he was able to recreate the precise aspect of an animal he had not observed first-hand for years, Frémiet noted: ‘I have always been faithful to the practice of taking measurements, for measurements are everything’.17 Frémiet, quoted in De Biez, p. 79.

By the time he reached maturity, Emmanuel Frémiet possessed an unusual knowledge of osteology, comparative anatomy and animal physiology, coupled with an appreciation of palaeontology and prehistoric archaeology. Fascinatingly, the artist recalled that many of the lithographic drawings of bones he undertook for Jacques-Christophe Werner were in fact made for De Blainville’s influential Ostéographie. Given Frémiet’s close relationship with Werner, and his prior involvement with De Blainville’s publication, he was surely one of the elite who were immediately informed in 1849 when France’s first gorilla bones were delivered to Werner’s studio at the Muséum d’histoire naturelle for the supplementary illustrations to be prepared for De Blainville’s osteological opus. Further, given the fact that he is known to have supplemented his income into the early 1850s by continuing to undertake illustrations for both popular and medical publications, it is not inconceivable that it was Frémiet himself who was subcontracted to draw the Ostéographie’s lithographic images of the female gorilla skeleton in 1849, even though they were accredited to his supervisor, Werner.

It is perhaps not surprising that Frémiet’s sculpture at the 1859 Salon depicted a female gorilla, for the internal structure of his Gorille enlevant une négresse was doubtless based upon De Blainville’s 1849 publication of the skeleton of the female gorilla from Gabon, informed by the artist’s own expertise with anatomy and myology (the study of muscle systems). Frémiet would have had available to him, of course, all of the new researches on the gorilla conducted at the museum by the late De Blainville, as well as those of Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and other museum luminaries. He would surely have studied the small model of Franquet’s male gorilla that had been fashioned by M. Portmann, the museum’s zoological preparator and model-maker. Obviously, Frémiet would have been aided in reconstructing the external appearance of his terrifying gorilla by studying Portmann’s efforts in making ready for exhibition the preserved gorilla bodies that had reached the museum in 1851. The grandest of these specimens took pride of place in the museum’s displays as soon as it could be stuffed, occupying a transparent showcase in the centre of the Ape Room in the Galeries de zoologie. Nearby, visitors could view a daguerreotype of the specimen as it first arrived, squashed out of shape in a vat of alcohol, ‘so as to better appreciate the tremendous skill with which M. Portmann has mounted up this colossal creature’. After 1852 the gorilla definitely ruled the roost here, lording it over the long-since stuffed body of ‘Jack’, the orang-utan that had so enchanted Parisians in 1836–37.18 P.-A. Cap, Le Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Paris, 1854, p. 228. See also M. Dureau de Lamalle, ‘Mémoire sur le grand gorille de Gabon,Troglodytes gorilla, determinant la limite de la nagivation d’Hannon, le long des côtes de l’Afrique occidentale’, Zoologie, series 3, vol. 16. Paris, 1851, p. 183; and E. Texier, Tableau de Paris, Paris, 1852, p. 184.

It was testament to Frémiet’s mastery as a sculptor that, taking as his only guide the skeletal and preserved remnants of a completely new species, no living example of which would be seen in Paris for decades to come, he was able to create such a convincing and seemingly life-like reconstruction of the mysterious gorilla in 1859. He is to be forgiven therefore for sensationalising his composition somewhat by showing a dead Negress clasped within his gorilla’s marauding embrace. Even though Thomas Savage, when first describing the Troglodytes gorilla, had stressed that ‘the silly stories about their carrying off women from the native towns, and vanquishing the elephants, related by voyagers and widely copied into books, are unhesitatingly denied’, he also went on to note, based upon accounts given by the Mpongwe tribe from the Gabon, that they are exceedingly ferocious, and always offensive in their habits, never running from man as does the Chimpanzé. They are objects of terror to the natives, and are never encountered by them except on the defensive’.19 Savage, pp. 423–4. Baudelaire’s paranoia about Frémiet’s supposed depiction of primate rape is also understandable, given that stories of mysterious apes ravishing African or Indonesian women had been told since the seventeenth century. Certainly Frémiet, and possibly also Baudelaire, would have read the Histoire naturelle of the great French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, which summarised these accounts in its discussion of the ‘orang-outang’.20 In his chapter entitled ‘Les Orang-outangs, ou le Pongo et le Jocko’, Buffon mistakenly argued that the chimpanzee and the orang-utan had to be the same creature which had simply been wrongly described by various travellers. The existence of the gorilla, of course, was completely unknown to him. See G.-L. Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi, Paris, L’Imprimerie royale, 1749–66; vol. XIV, 1766, pp. 43–71. Buffon cited, for example, how in 1707 the Dutch voyager Schoutten had written of orang-utans that ‘lust after women, for whom there is no safety in travelling through the forests, for they might at any moment be attacked and ravished by these creatures’. Gautier-Laboulaye, when presenting the skeleton of a female gorilla to the Museum d’historie naturelle in 1849, had reinforced such notions of male gorillas ‘slaking their lust by ravishing Negro women if they wander carelessly in the woods’. 21 Buffon, p. 50. Charles Baudelaire was perhaps thinking of such lurid accounts when he mistakenly titled Frémiet’s sculpture, in his critique of the 1859 Salon, as l’Orang-outang entraînant une femme au fond des bois’ (Orang-utan dragging a woman deep into the woods); see Baudelaire,’Salon’, p. 371; Gautier-Laboulaye, quoted in M. Dureau de la Malle,’Mémoire dur le géant gorille de Gabon, Troglodytes gorilla, determinant la limite de la navigation d’Hannon, le long des côtes de l’Afrique occidentale’, Annales des sciences naturelles. Zoologie, serie 3, vol. 16, Victoria Masson, Paris, 1851, p. 191.

Within Frémiet’s own oeuvre, the Gorilla carrying off a Negress belonged to a specific genre that the sculptor had been developing for some years. Like any young artist, Frémiet sought to define himself as a recognisably individual talent. Critics and public alike had naturally begged the question of Frémiet’s relationship to the leading animalier sculptor of his day, Antoine-Louis Barye (1795–1875). Frémiet, however, was determined not to be typecast as just an animalier artist. In 1896, looking back over his career, he told one arts writer:

Let’s go back 40 years or so. You will recall the discredit cast upon Barye for so long, not because his talent wasn’t recognised, but because there was in those days a strict hierarchy of subjects for art. Noble art consisted of depictions of the human figure; and animals were decidedly non-noble subjects. There was clearly a place for an intermediary subject, between these two polarized camps; and I adopted this genre, that of combat between man and beast, so as to alienate neither the Art Academy nor the Salon jury.22 Frémiet talking with Thiébault-Sisson in 1896; reprinted in Chevillot, p. 187.

Frémiet had an early triumph in this new genre with his Ours blessé or Wounded bear, a monumental plaster composition of a bear crushing its hunter in a death-embrace. This had caused a sensation at the 1850 Salon where it attracted such record crowds that it had to be relocated mid-exhibition to a more airy locate.23 This was partly the fault of the Salon authorities who, finding the work too confronting, had initially placed it away from the other Salon sculptures, near the entrance to the exhibition, as though it were unworthy of too much official approval. This work was later sent to the New York World’s Fair of 1853, where it was destroyed in the Crystal Palace fire. The Gorilla carrying off a Negress, as the artist’s second major work in this vein, met as we have seen with an equally controversial reception.24 One group of the public, who may or may not have visited the exhibition, were to have the last say concerning this Gorilla. After the closure of the 1859 Salon, Frémiet transported the plaster statue to his studio at Passy. Here it sat for two years until what Bartlett describes as members of ‘an army of two thousand wild Belgian laborers’, who were engaged in constructing one of Paris’s new boulevards, broke into the premises and, apparently affronted by Frémiet’s grotesque creation, destroyed the Gorilla carrying off a Negress in an ultimate critical attack. Bartlett, vol. XXXI, no. 792, 1891, pp. 136–7.

Given Frémiet’s background at and continued involvement with the Muséum d’histoire naturelle (where he was to succeed Antoine-Louis Barye as Master of Zoological Drawing in 1875), it is perhaps not surprising that the gorilla – the major zoological discovery of the nineteenth century – remained a favoured motif for the artist. He is known to have created a wax sculpture of a gorilla carrying off the Venus de Milo in 1872 as an allegory of the cultural destruction occasioned by the Franco-Prussian War.25 This sculpture, which remains unlocated, was sent to an auction held in New York in 1872, of works donated by the artists of Paris and Düsseldorf, for the relief of those who had suffered in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 804, 1891, p. 115. Next, as Bartlett recounted in 1891:

Always seeing a plaster cast of a gorilla at the Garden [the museum’s zoo or Jardin des plantes] and regretting the destruction of the one he had made in 1859, decided Frémiet to make another group of the same subject, but differently and more compactly treated. Its appearance in the Salon of 1887 created an immense sensation, and, as usual, a wide division of opinion. The few best artists and art lovers pronounced it, independent of subject, a great masterpiece, while many wholly condemned it, because of its subject.26 Conversations had begun in 1935 between Nicholson, Nicolete Gray, J. L. Martin and Herbert Read (see King, p. 178).

Between the first and second versions of Frémiet’s gorilla-and-woman composition, the Western world’s knowledge of this primate had changed considerably. Speculation over mankind’s relationship with the gorilla came to a head in 1861, with the publication of Paul du Chaillu’s Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa. A reminiscence of this French-American explorer’s travels throughout the West African region of Gabon in 1855–1859, Du Chaillu’s book told of the first modern encounters between a Western man and the gorilla. In vivid detail Du Chaillu narrated his hunting and killing of several gorillas, as well as providing accounts of their natural habitat and behaviour in the wild (including tales of their legendary aggressiveness and the blood-curdling vocalisations and breast-beating of male gorillas when agitated). Paul du Chaillu’s tales of his travels in Gorilla Land unleashed a storm of controversy within natural history and other scientific circles, as gorillas were now becoming considered the primate closest in behaviour and anatomy to humans. In the 1860s and 1870s Paul du Chaillu capitalised upon his media celebrity as ‘discoverer’ of the gorillas by recasting the narratives of his explorations in Gabon as a series of highly successful children’s books (fig. 5).27 P. du Chaillu, Exploration and Adventures in Equatorial Africa: With Accounts of the Manners and Customs of the People, and of the Chase ofthe Gorilla, Crocodile, Leopard, Elephant, Hippopotamus and OtherAnimals, London, 1861; New York, 1861. (A French edition appeared twoyears later: P. du Chaillu, Voyages et aventures dans l’Afrique equatoriale, Paris, 1863). The first full account of Du Chaillu’s extraordinary life was provided by the rather hagiographic biography of Michel Vaucaire, Paul du Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter, E. P. Watts trans., New York & London, 1930. For more considered accounts see K. D. Patterson,’Paul B. du Chaillu and the Exploration of Gabon, 1855–1865′, International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. VII, no. 4, 1974, pp. 647–67; Henry H. Bucher Jr, ‘Canonization by repetition: Paul du Chaillu in historiography’, Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer, vol. LXVI, nos. 242–3, 1979, pp. 15–32; J. Mandelstam, ‘Du Chaillu’s stuffed gorillas and the savants from the British Museum’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, vol. 48, no. 2, 1994, pp. 227–45; and S. McCook,’ “It may be truth, but it is not evidence”: Paul du Chaillu and the Legitimation of evidence in the field sciences’, Osiris, 2nd series, vol. 11, ‘Science in the field’, 1996, pp. 177–97. I am most indebted to Stuart McCook, University of Guelph, for his help with my research on Paul du Chaillu. In these decades British, French and German naturalists had also refined scientific study of the planet’s largest primate, while evolutionists had conscripted its anthropoid features to their cause; so that by 1887, while still remaining rarely seen in Western zoos, both the appearance of the gorilla and its anthropological significance had gained household recognition.

The life-size Gorilla carrying off a woman of 1887 was another controversial triumph for the artist and Frémiet, who had not received a medal at the Salon for thirty-six years – since 1851 – now claimed the Salon’s coveted prize, the Medal of Honour (fig. 6). This seems to have polarised critical opinion – not so much concerning Frémiet’s undoubted merits as a sculptor, but rather the particular qualities of this new, grotesque group.

Writing for L’Art français, Firmin Javel observed:

The ‘Gorilla’ is a piece of art of the first order, as well for the boldness of its invention as for the energy of its execution … This gorilla who carries off a woman, is not perhaps a sight that is to be seen every day at the Jardin des plantes, from ten to four, but might be – in Gabon … It matters very little, any way, whether this rape has been committed or not, or if so, at what epoch, or in what country, it is the movement that the sculptor has given to his figures, the agony of the young “captive” and the desperate luxury of the ravishing gorilla, that he has Majestically rendered. The medal consecrates a long and brilliant career.28 Firmin Javel, quoted in Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 798, 1891, pp. 27–8.

Across the Channel, however, the critic for The Magazine of Art, regretting that ‘some of the greatest artists of France’ such as Paul Dubois or Auguste Rodin were not exhibiting in that year’s Salon, deplored the fact that:

To M. Frémiet’s consummately modelled but undecorative and horrible ‘Gorille’ – the presentment of a gigantic ape carrying off a nude woman, whose almost inanimate form hangs helpless in his grasp – the Médaille d’Honneur has, with a deplorable lack of true judgement, been accorded.29 ‘The Salon. III’, Magazine of Art, 1887, pp. 359–60.

Whereas the 1859 sculpture had depicted a female gorilla carrying off an arguably ‘naturally selected’ dead trophy, Frémiet upped the ante in 1887. The woman was now Caucasian and very much alive, even presaging an art nouveau nymph in her curvaceous struggle with a visibly male primate. No longer making his viewers play mute witness to the triumphant swagger of a murderous predator, Frémiet took them right into the heart of a much more ambiguous battle, which was set in the Stone Age. While notions of unprovoked bestial rape could still spring easily to mind, on a second glance the astute viewer would notice that the woman held so perilously in this ape’s embrace was clearly a member of a prehistoric hunting party that had been attacking the gorilla as edible prey. And it is her companions at whom the beast grimaces and snarls, those who have hurled the javelin that painfully pierces the gorilla’s left shoulder. In his defence, the ape clutches a distinctively shaped rock with a gigantic paw, ready to retaliate. The horrific nature of this new scene was underscored by a touch of the Grand Guignol in the bloody scratches on the woman’s arms, a cruel observation that was appreciated by certain critics of the time such as Maurice Hamel, writing for the Gazette des beaux-arts: ‘The massive force of this brute, the way his thumb presses deep into the woman’s back … the frenzied convulsions of her feet, all this gives one a real thrill’.30 M. Hamel, ‘Salon de 1887: La Sculpture et la gravure’, Gazette des beaux-arts, 1 July 1887, pp. 39–40.

To heighten this drama, the surface of Frémiet’s sculpture was subtly coloured, imparting a sense of movement to the work. The critic Gustave Ollendorf remarked upon how, instead of leaving his sculpture with that singular and unpleasant white that is the natural hue of plaster

…M. Frémiet has coated his plaster with some kind of waxy finish, and brushed this all over with a rainbow of tiny touches of colour – dirty whites, yellow and reddish shadows, plays of light and dark, an infinite gamut of coloured nuances that bring his statue to life with a shimmering presence.31 G. Ollendorf, Salon de 1887, Paris, 1887, pp. 83–4. Unfortunately the plaster seems to have been painted at some stage with a faux-bronze finish, destroying the subtlety of the work’s original appearance.

Certainly the critics of the day were divided as to whether his new work promoted or argued against Darwinian theory. To further muddy the waters, Frémiet’s sculpture also pointed to equally controversial archaeological discoveries. The chiselled rock which the ape grabs in self-defence might well have belonged to his attackers, for it resembles a cutting tool from the Palaeolithic era; and the gorilla’s possession of this object suggests perhaps a higher or developing intelligence. From his involvement with the Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Emmanuel Frémiet was surely familiar with the researches of Jacques Boucher de Perthes (1788–1868). In the successive volumes of his Antiquites celtiques et antediluviennes (1847, 1857 and 1863). Boucher de Perthes had argued that the peculiarly shaped stones found among the bones of extinct mammals were actually primitive cutting and hunting implements fashioned by antediluvian peoples. At the time of their first publication, De Perthes’s theories were ridiculed by many, since they did not concur with the Christian Church’s religious notions of the beginnings of mankind dating no earlier than 4000 BC. By 1887, however, his discoveries had been thoroughly vindicated.32 Support for Boucher de Perthes grew as early as 1858, after the scientifically monitored excavations at Brixham Cave in England, which proved that humans had coexisted with extinct mammals. For a good overview of palaeontological discoveries in the nineteenth century, see M. R. Goodrum, ‘Prolegomenon to a history of paleoanthropology: The study of human origins as a scientific enterprise’, Evolutionary Anthropology, vol. 13, 2004, pp. 224–33. For their impact on the visual arts, see Vénus et Caïm Figures de la préhistoire 1830–1930, Bordeaux & Paris, 2003.

Not quite an innocent victim, the woman wears part of a gorilla’s jawbone as adornment, indicating her own status as a Stone Age predator.33 This point is made in the Guide des collections. Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, Paris, 2001, p. 140. In addition to its sensual contrasts of male with female, beauty with bestiality, soft flesh with hard muscle and smooth skin with hairy pelt, Frémiet’s sculpture captivated people with its enigmatic and grizzly narrative, visualising a Darwinian struggle whose outcome was by no means certain.

Faced with this tour-de-force at the 1887 Salon, trapped into acknowledging the celebrity of the piece, yet confronted by its highly controversial subject matter, the State authorities immediately acquired Frémiet’s life-size plaster sculpture, and then appear to have suppressed it. After allowing the plaster to be shown a second time, at the Exposition universelle of 1889, they ‘stowed [it] away’ according to Bartlett, ‘in the dark corners of the Palais de l’Industrie’, refused all of Frémiet’s subsequent entreaties to have it cast as a life-size bronze for the Jardin des plantes and in 1895 consigned it to the Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, where it remains today.34 Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 798, 1891, p. 27. Frémiet was able to bring the work back to Paris briefly some years later, when he received a commission from an American collector for a life-size bronze to be cast from it; this enabled the sculpture to be once again exhibited to a huge audience, at the Exposition universelle of 1900.

Nevertheless, its exile in Nantes failed to make Frémiet’s composition disappear, for he had received permission from the French State to produce copies of the work in a reduced size as bronze statues, which proved highly popular (fig. 1). The ambiguous but compelling Gorilla carrying off a woman was also reproduced widely by both engraving and photography. The sculpture entered the public consciousness as one of the defining images of its time.

In closing his letter to Bernard Hall in December 1906 (fig. 7), gifting the bronze Gorilla carrying off a woman to the National Gallery of Victoria, Emmanuel Frémiet added: ‘I would ask you, if you would be so kind, to display this work so that when the public come in the first thing they see is the ape staring straight at them. I feel this is the group’s best aspect’.35 Fremiet, letter, 13 December 1906. While this is undoubtedly true, such a positioning, enhancing the viewer’s impression of the ferocity of Frémiet’s gorilla, may not have been exactly in the sculpture’s best interests. When Frémiet’s gift was first made known to the people of Melbourne, its reception in the press was very positive. Noting that ‘this conception has been carried out with a boldness and originality worthy of the genius of the great French sculptor’, and praising ‘the triumph of art [which] has been achieved in the contrast between the tense strength of the great brute and the delicate contour of the half fainting woman’, the Age newspaper felt that ‘the subject chosen is a remarkable one, and when the bronze is placed in the gallery for exhibition it is sure to attract considerable attention’.36 ‘News of the day’, Age, 4 February 1907, p. 4. This it apparently did, and to the work’s detriment. Even half a century after the clarion call of Darwinian theory had dragged the gorilla out of the forest and into prominence on the stage of world affairs, Frémiet’s graphic depiction of the primate in primeval action still possessed the power to shock. And so, barely two months after Emmanuel Frémiet’s Gorilla carrying off a woman was first placed on display at the NGV, the Argus newspaper carried the following report:

During the past few days a good many inquiries have been made as to what has become of Fremiet’s statuette, “Gorilla and Woman”, which was recently presented to the national art collection by the sculptor, and which used to stand at the entrance of the Stawell gallery. On inquiry it appears that the trustees, though they had previously inspected it, have now become somewhat doubtful as to whether the subject, with its suggestion of horror, is altogether a suitable one for exhibition in a public gallery. It has been withdrawn, therefore, and placed temporarily in the board room, where anybody desiring to do so may see it.37 Argus, 10 April 1907, p. 6.

In this strange echo of events at the 1859 Paris Salon, surely all that was missing was a run of green velvet curtains.

Ted Gott, Senior Curator of International Art, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2005)

Notes

Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the author.

I am grateful to Michael Watson, Gillian Currie, Kathryn Weir, Sonia Dean, Terence Lane, Gerard Hayes and Irena Zdanowicz for their help with my research.

1      B. Hall, ‘Report to the Chairman of the National Gallery Committee’, 27 July 1905, National Gallery of Victoria, Shaw Research Library.

2      Emmanuel Frémiet, Joan of Arc, 1889 version of an 1874 concept, cast 1905–6, bronze, 385.0 x 305.0 x 115.0 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Felton Bequest, 1907. Frémiet’s Joan of Arc was installed at the entrance to the former premises of the National Gallery of Victoria (now the State Library of Victoria) in February 1907, where it remains to this day.

3      Frémiet to Bernard Hall, Paris, 13 December 1906; letter annotated as received in Melbourne on 5 February 1907. Bernard Hall Archives, National Gallery of Australia Research Library, Canberra, box 2, item 223.

4      Frémiet’s life and works are recorded in four principal sources. The first of these, by his close friend the American T. H. Bartlett, published in a long series of articles in the American Architect and Building News in 1891, is virtually a dictated autobiography of the artist, providing an invaluable first-hand account of his life to that point. See T. H. Bartlett, ‘Emmanuel Frémiet’, The American Architect and Building News, vol. XXXI, no. 788, 1891, pp. 72–3; no. 790, 1891, pp. 101–3; no. 792, 1891, pp. 134–7; no. 794, 1891, pp. 172–4; no. 796, 1891, pp. 201–4; no. 798, 1891, pp. 24–8; no. 801,1891, pp. 70–2; no. 804, 1891, pp. 113–5; no. 805, 1891, pp. 129–31. Less personal, but also citing extensive interviews with Frémiet, is the somewhat rambling study by Jacques de Biez, serialised in the journal L’Artiste between 1892 and 1895, then published as a monograph in 1896 (and reissued in 1910). See J. de Biez, Un Maître imagier. E. Frémiet, Paris, 1896; and E. Frémiet, Paris, 1910. After the artist’s death, apart from a short study by Philippe Fauré-Fremiet, publishing on him petered out until Catherine Chevillot’s excellent exhibition La Main et le multiple at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, in 1988, which offered the first systematic cataloguing of his works. P. Faure-Fremiet, Les Maîtres de l’art. Fremiet, Paris, 1934; C. Chevillot, Emmanuel Frémiet, 1824–1910. La Main et le multiple, Musée des beaux-arts de Dijon, 1988. It should be noted that the spelling of the artist’s surname varies. It appears as Frémiet in many texts published during the artist’s lifetime, including the monographic studies of Bartlett and De Biez. However, the artist often signed his letters as Fremiet, with no accent; and this orthography was adopted by both Philippe Fauré-Fremiet and Catherine Chevillot. The appearance or not of the é accent in the references cited in this article reflects the usage adopted in each instance.

5      P. Pétroz, in La Presse, 1855; cited by Odille Picard-Sébastiani, in L’Art en France sous le second empire, (Grand Palais, 11 May–13 August 1979), Paris, 1979, cat. no. 154, p. 278.

6      Frémiet, interviewed in Thiébault-Sisson, ‘Au jour le jour, une vie d’artiste. Emmanuel Frémiet’, Le Temps, 3 January 1896; reprinted in Chevillot, 1988, p. 187. Since Frémiet’s first gorilla composition was not included in the published catalogue listing of the 1859 Salon, variants of its title occur in the literature on the artist. In 1898 Étienne Bricon referred to the work as Gorille traînant le cadavre d’une femme (Gorilla dragging along a female cadavre); E. Bricon, ‘Frémiet (premier article, Gazette des beaux-arts, vol. XIX, 1898, p. 502. Bartlett does not give the work a specific title, while De Biez refers to it as Gorille femelle emportant une négresse (Female gorilla making away with a Negress). The title used in this article is that employed by Chevillot, Gorilla enlevant une négresse (Gorilla carrying off a Negress). Similarly, Chevillot’s title Gorilla enlevant une femme (Gorilla carrying off a woman) has been employed for the 1887 version of Frémiet’s composition. It should be noted too that while the jury rejected Frémiet’s first Gorille, nine other sculptures by the artist were officially accepted for inclusion in the Salon of 1859; all of these were eclipsed, however, by the succès-de-scandale of the Gorille.

7       Nadar cartoon and caption, cited in Fauré-Fremiet, 1934, p. 69.

8      De Biez, p. 99.

9      C. Baudelaire, ‘Salon de 1859’, in Charles Baudelaire: Critique d’Art, ed. C. Pichois, Paris, 1965, p. 371. Another English translation of this text can be found in Art in Paris 1845–1862. Salons and Other Exhibitions Reviewed by Charles Baudelaire, J. Mayne trans. and ed., London, 1965, p. 209. While not sexualising the scenario, and writing some thirty years after the event, Bartlett also assumed Frémiet’s 1859 figure to be male, referring to ‘a Gorilla, dragging after him the dead body of a woman, that he had captured and killed’. Bartlett, vol. XXXI, no. 792, 1891, p. 136.

10      One of the best accounts of the emergence of the gorilla from legend to dissecting table remains the near-contemporaneous text of Thomas Huxley, Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, London, 1863, pp. 1-54. See also H. W. Janson, Apes and Ape Lore, London, 1952, pp. 327–54; and R. M. Yerkes & A. W. Yerkes, The Great Apes: A Study of Anthropoid Life, New Haven, 1929, pp. 7–35.

11      See ‘L’Orang-outang au Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Paris’, Magasin pittoresque, July 1836, pp. 223–4. Prior to this, the museum had possessed only a stuffed orang-utan skin and its skeleton, which had been donated by the empress Joséphine; these were the remains of a female of the species, which had been presented to the Empress by the French naval officer Decaen in March 1808 and which survived for only some months at Malmaison. This female orang-utan had been illustrated by Jacques- Christophe Werner and described in E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire & F. Cuvier, Histoire naturelle des mammifères, Paris, 1824, vol 1, pp. 1–7.  

12      T. S. Savage, ‘Notice of the external characters and habits of Troglodytes Gorilla, a new species of Orang from the Gaboon River’; J. Wyman, ‘Osteology of the same’, Boston Journal of Natural History, vol. 5, no. 4, December 1847, pp. 417–3 (pp. 419–20). While sharing overall joint authorship in its introductory and concluding remarks, this paper was divided into two key sections, ‘Notice of the external characters and habits of the Engé-ena’ by Savage (pp. 420–26), and ‘Description of the crania and some of the bones of the Engé-ena’ by Wyman (pp. 426–36). An abridged version of these seminal texts was reprinted in Science in America: Historical Selections, J. C. Burnham ed., New York 1971, pp. 115–27.  

13      Werner’s lithographs and an account of the arrival of these specimens in Paris were reprinted in the last, posthumously published volume of De Blainville’s opus. See H.-M. D. de Blainville, Ostéographie, ou, description iconographique comparée du squelette et du systéme dentaire des cinq classes d’animaux verterbrés récents at fossiles pour servir de base à la Zoologie et à la Géologie. Ouvrage accompagné de planches lithographiées sous sa direction par M. J.–C. Werner, peintre du Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Paris, Paris, vol. IV, 1855, pp. 81–2. Here it was noted that the lithographs first appeared in a fascicle supplement to De Blainville’s Ostéographie, published in 1849.

14      I. G. Saint-Hilaire, ‘Note sur le gorille’, Annales des sciences naturelles. Zoologie, series 3, vol. 16, Paris 1851, pp. 154–8. In this special ‘gorilla issue’ the Annales also reprinted summaries of recent studies on the osteology of the gorilla by Richard Owen (Hunterian Lecturer in Comparative Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, London). See ‘Le Gorille’, Magasin pittoresque, September 1852, pp. 297–8. L. F. E. Rousseau & A. Déveria, Photographie zoologique ou représentation des animaux rares des collections du Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Paris & London, 1853–54. This publication, which appeared in a number of livraisons, included both original salted-paper photographs and plates reproduced by photogravure. See also J. Rosen, ‘Naming and framing “Nature” in Photographie zoologique’, Word & Image, vol. 13, no. 4, October-December 1997, pp. 377–91.

15      Bartlett, vol. XXXI, no. 788, 1891, p. 73.

16      De Biez, 1910, P. 21.

17      Frémiet, quoted in De Biez, p. 79.

18      P.-A. Cap, Le Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Paris, 1854, p. 228. See also M. Dureau de Lamalle, ‘Mémoire sur le grand gorille de Gabon, Troglodytes gorilla, determinant la limite de la nagivation d’Hannon, le long des côtes de l’Afrique occidentale’, Zoologie, series 3, vol. 16. Paris, 1851, p. 183; and E. Texier, Tableau de Paris, Paris, 1852, p. 184.  

19      Savage, pp. 423–4.

20      In his chapter entitled ‘Les Orang-outangs, ou le Pongo et le Jocko’, Buffon mistakenly argued that the chimpanzee and the orang-utan had to be the same creature which had simply been wrongly described by various travellers. The existence of the gorilla, of course, was completely unknown to him. See G.-L. Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi, Paris, L’Imprimerie royale, 1749–66; vol. XIV, 1766, pp. 43–71.

21      Buffon, p. 50. Charles Baudelaire was perhaps thinking of such lurid accounts when he mistakenly titled Frémiet’s sculpture, in his critique of the 1859 Salon, as l’Orang-outang entraînant une femme au fond des bois’ (Orang-utan dragging a woman deep into the woods); see Baudelaire, ‘Salon’, p. 371; Gautier-Laboulaye, quoted in M. Dureau de la Malle, ‘Mémoire dur le géant gorille de Gabon, Troglodytes gorilla, déterminant la limite de la navigation d’Hannon, le long des côtes de l’Afrique occidentale’, Annales des sciences naturelles. Zoologie, serie 3, vol. 16, Victoria Masson, Paris, 1851, p. 191.  

22      Frémiet talking with Thiébault-Sisson in 1896; reprinted in Chevillot, p. 187.

23      This was partly the fault of the Salon authorities who, finding the work too confronting, had initially placed it away from the other Salon sculptures, near the entrance to the exhibition, as though it were unworthy of too much official approval. This work was later sent to the New York World’s Fair of 1853, where it was destroyed in the Crystal Palace fire.  

24      One group of the public, who may or may not have visited the exhibition, were to have the last say concerning this Gorilla. After the closure of the 1859 Salon, Frémiet transported the plaster statue to his studio at Passy. Here it sat for two years until what Bartlett describes as members of ‘an army of two thousand wild Belgian laborers’, who were engaged in constructing one of Paris’s new boulevards, broke into the premises and, apparently affronted by Frémiet’s grotesque creation, destroyed the Gorilla carrying off a Negress in an ultimate critical attack. Bartlett, vol. XXXI, no. 792, 1891, pp. 136–7.

25      This sculpture, which remains unlocated, was sent to an auction held in New York in 1872, of works donated by the artists of Paris and Düsseldorf, for the relief of those who had suffered in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 804, 1891, p. 115. 

26      Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 798, 1891, p. 27.

27      P. du Chaillu, Exploration and Adventures in Equatorial Africa: With Accounts of the Manners and Customs of the People, and of the Chase of the Gorilla, Crocodile, Leopard, Elephant, Hippopotamus and Other Animals, London, 1861; New York, 1861. (A French edition appeared two years later: P. du Chaillu, Voyages et aventures dans l’Afrique equatoriale, Paris, 1863). The first full account of Du Chaillu’s extraordinary life was provided by the rather hagiographic biography of Michel Vaucaire, Paul du Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter, E. P. Watts trans., New York & London, 1930. For more considered accounts see K. D. Patterson, ‘Paul B. du Chaillu and the Exploration of Gabon, 1855–1865’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. VII, no. 4, 1974, pp. 647–67; Henry H. Bucher Jr, ‘Canonization by repetition: Paul du Chaillu in historiography’, Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer, vol. LXVI, nos. 242–3, 1979, pp. 15–32; J. Mandelstam, ‘Du Chaillu’s stuffed gorillas and the savants from the British Museum’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, vol. 48, no. 2, 1994, pp. 227–45; and S. McCook,’ “It may be truth, but it is not evidence”: Paul du Chaillu and the Legitimation of evidence in the field sciences’, Osiris, 2nd series, vol. 11, ‘Science in the field’, 1996, pp. 177–97. I am most indebted to Stuart McCook, University of Guelph, for his help with my research on Paul du Chaillu.

28      Firmin Javel, quoted in Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 798, 1891, pp. 27–8.

29      ‘The Salon. III’, Magazine of Art, 1887, pp. 359–60.

30      M. Hamel, ‘Salon de 1887: La Sculpture et la gravure’, Gazette des beaux-arts, 1 July 1887, pp. 39–40.

31      G. Ollendorf, Salon de 1887, Paris, 1887, pp. 83–4. Unfortunately the plaster seems to have been painted at some stage with a faux-bronze finish, destroying the subtlety of the work’s original appearance.  

32      Support for Boucher de Perthes grew as early as 1858, after the scientifically monitored excavations at Brixham Cave in England, which proved that humans had coexisted with extinct mammals. For a good overview of palaeontological discoveries in the nineteenth century, see M. R. Goodrum, ‘Prolegomenon to a history of paleoanthropology: The study of human origins as a scientific enterprise’, Evolutionary Anthropology, vol. 13, 2004, pp. 224–33. For their impact on the visual arts, see Vénus et Caïm Figures de la préhistoire 1830–1930, Bordeaux & Paris, 2003.

33      This point is made in the Guide des collections. Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, Paris, 2001, p. 140.

34      Bartlett, vol. XXXII, no. 798, 1891, p. 27.

35      Fremiet, letter, 13 December 1906.

36      ‘News of the day’, Age, 4 February 1907, p. 4.

37      Argus, 10 April 1907, p. 6.