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James Pradier | Neoclassical sculptor

Jean-Jacques Pradier (1792-1852) was born in Geneva to a family of horologists, like his celebrated namesake Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).
He apprenticed as a watchcase engraver and then trained at Geneva's Ecole de Dessin before joining his elder brother, engraver Charles-Simon Pradier, in Paris around 1807-1808.
He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and worked with painter Baron Gérard, who remained a vital influence and ally, and studied sculpture with François-Frédéric Lemot, won the Prix de Rome in 1813, and stayed at the Villa Medici as a pensionnaire until late 1818.

His successful career began immediately upon his return, thanks to his Salon debut in 1819 with two works executed in Rome, the plaster Bacchante and Centaur (lost) and the marble Bacchante (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen), which earned him the gold medal for sculpture that year.
His steady stream of Salon entries throughout his career amply demonstrated Pradier's mastery of a variety of sculptural modes.

He garnered some of the most important public commissions of the Restoration and July Monarchy: the Rousseau monument, Ile Rousseau, Geneva (1834); a commemorative monument to the murdered duc de Berry for the cathedral of Saint-Louis (1821) and numerous portrait statues for Louis-Philippe's Galeries Historiques, both Versailles; four bas-reliefs of Fame for the Arc de Triomphe, Place de l'Etoile (1829), the monumental seated figures of Strasbourg and Lille for the Place de la Concorde (completed 1836), the south pediment of the Palais du Luxembourg (commissioned 1840), and twelve colossal Victories for Napoleon's tomb at the Invalides (commissioned 1843), all in Paris.
He executed portrait statues, busts, and statuettes of the royal family and many contemporary luminaries in the political and cultural arenas.

James Pradier | Three Graces, 1831 (detail) | Shown at the Paris Salon of 1831

Despite Pradier's many efforts, however, he failed to win the most coveted State commissions, notably the pediment of the Madeleine in Paris (a competition project in which he refused to participate on principle), and the most important royal funerary commissions--the funerary statues for Louis-Philippe's popular heir apparent, the duc d'Orléans, who died accidentally in 1842.
Despite his complaints of official neglect, Pradier was showered with professional honors and powerful posts.
In 1827 he was elected member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, given a studio at the Institut, and made professor of sculpture at the Ecole, teaching legions of students who consequently prospered in the artistic world of mid-nineteenth-century France.

Pradier became chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 1828.
His Salon entries were steadily purchased by the State and distributed throughout the national museums in France.

James Pradier | Three Graces, 1831 (detail) | Shown at the Paris Salon of 1831

By the time of his death in 1852, Pradier was considered one of the kingpins of modern French sculpture, along with David d'Angers and Rude, and a critical benchmark within the contemporary debates on the medium in modern times.
Pradier was also a canny and ambitious entrepreneur in the realm of serial edition.
His work became known internationally through the vast number of small-scale works that he distributed throughout his career, some reductions of his large-scale pieces and others special designs for this market, and primarily as bronzes. | © National Gallery of Art Washington, DC

Pradier, Jean-Jacques detto James, nato a Ginevra, è una delle figure di spicco della scultura europea neoclassica e romantica.
Trasferitosi a Parigi nel 1808, vince il famoso Grand Prix de Rome che gli permette di studiare per cinque anni - dal 1813-1819 - all'Accademia di Francia a Roma.

Al rientro nella capitale francese, inizia una brillante carriera e beneficia di commesse prestigiose per l’Hôpital des Invalides, la place de la Concorde, Arc de Trionphe, il Palais du Luxembourg e la Camera dei deputati.
Per la sua città natale, Pradier realizza numerosi busti di studiosi ginevrini e la celebre statua di Jean-Jacques Rousseau, sull'omonima isola. Alcune sue opere sono conservate al Louvre e al musée d’Orsay.

Nel 1846 Gustave Flaubert diceva di lui:
"Questo è un vero artista, un vero greco, il più antico di tutti i moderni; un uomo che non si lascia distrarre da nulla, né dalla politica né dal socialismo, e che, come un vero lavoratore, si rimbocca le maniche, è lì per svolgere il suo compito da mattina a sera, con la volontà di far bene e l’amore per la sua arte".