NICOLAS COUSTOU: THE CARVER OF DYNAMIC SCULPTURE

Portraying the prodigious speed of the desperate chase of Apollo pursuing Daphne, the sculptures by the French sculptor Nicolas Coustou are remarkable for their vigorous modeling and dynamic movement.  The son of a woodcarver, Coustou was Born on January 9, 1658, in Lyon, France. Initially trained by his father François, Coustou was sent to Paris to work in the studio of his uncle, Antoine Coysevox, in 1676.

In 1682, Coustou won the Prix de Rome with his bas-relief ‘Cain Building the Town of Enoch' and the next year he went to Rome to study at the Académie se France. While in Rome, Coustou made a copy of the antique statue of Commodus as Hercules with variations. In 1686 he returned to France and a year later settled in Paris. In 1688, he won a position at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture with an allegorical bas-relief in honor of Louis XIV; Coustou was promoted to adjunct professor (1695), to professor (1702), to rector (1720), and finally to chancellor of the academy in 1773. In 1690, Coutou married Suzanne Houasse, daughter of the painter René-Antoine Houasse.

Coustou often received official commissions, which he sometimes carried out with his brother Guillaume. Some of Coustou's most notable works were a sculpture for the St. Ambrose chapel of the Church of the Invalids, Paris (1692); Four Groups of Prophets in the St. Jerome chapel, Paris (1692); and a figure entitled “France for the cornice of the Chambre du Roi” at Versailles, including “Diane and Endymion” (1701), “Adonis Rests from the Chase” (1710), “The Nymphs” and “Julius Caesar” (1696-1713). In 1713, Coustou was commissioned to execute a large statue of St. Denis for the transept  of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris.

Coustou also provided a number of decorations for great houses in Paris and Lyons. Among his last works were a large marble bas-relief of the “Passage of Rhine” (1715-18) and a commission completed in 1725 for the “Descent from the Cross” in Notre-Dame, which completed a group collectively known as “The Vow of Louis XIII”. Coustou also executed a number of busts and funeral monuments.

Coustou's statues have all the impetuousness of Roman Baroque, without its dramatic strength. Their slender and vivacity suggest the advent of rocaille, the graceful, decorative style that emerged in early 18th century France. At the age of 75, Nicolas Coustou died on May 1, 1733, in Paris.

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