COUSTOU, Guillaume I
(b. 1677, Lyon, d. 1746, Paris)


Sculptor, part of a French family of sculptors. François Coustou (d 1690), a wood-carver and brother-in-law of the sculptor Antoine Coysevox, had two sons who became sculptors, Nicolas Coustou (1658-1733) and Guillaume Coustou I (1677-1746), and a daughter, Eléonore, whose son was the sculptor Claude Francin. The brothers moved from their native Lyon to train with Coysevox in Paris, where they spent the greater part of their careers. They worked on royal projects, notably at the château of Marly, Yvelines, which was the original location of Guillaume Coustou's celebrated Marly Horses now in the Louvre, Paris. Of Guillaume's sons, Charles Pierre Coustou (1721-97) was active as an architect, and Guillaume Coustou II (1716-1777) became a sculptor, like his uncle and father spending his early career in Rome and returning to work in France but also contributing to the statuary for Sanssouci, Potsdam.

Guillaume Coustou I trained with his brother and their maternal uncle Antoine Coysevox in Paris. In 1697 he won the Prix de Rome, but he was not awarded a place at the Académie de France in Rome. Instead he went to Italy at his own expense and worked in Rome for Pierre Legros II, by whose lively Baroque style he was influenced. His vigorous style was formed partly on the example of Bernini, whose work he saw in Rome.

Around 1700 he returned to France to assist Coysevox with the execution of his two monumental equestrian statues of Fame and Mercury, intended for the ornamental horse pond in the park at the château of Marly, Yvelines (marble, 1701-02; Paris, Louvre). In 1704 he was received (reçu) as a member of the Académie Royale, presenting a statuette of Hercules on the Funeral Pyre (marble; Paris, Louvre), a work that reveals his virtuosity as a marble-carver and his predisposition for dynamic composition. He had a successful career within the Académie: in 1706 he was appointed assistant professor, in 1715 professor, in 1726 assistant rector and in 1733 rector.

Guillaume's masterpieces are the celebrated pair of Horse Tamers (The Marly Horses), originally made for the royal château at Marly and set up there in 1745 but now in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.