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

Horse Tamer from Marly-le-Roi

Place de la Concorde, Paris

Guillaume Coustou, nephew of Coysevox, worked in Versailles, Paris and Marly. The two horses, which have stood since 1794 in the Place de la Concorde at the entrance to the Champs Elysées, were executed in 1740-45 for the Terrace de l'Abreuvoir in Marly, as a replacement for the Mercury and the Fame by Coysevox, which were transferred to the entrance to the Tuileries gardens in 1719. In each of the marbles by Coustou a rider tries to tame a wild horse; through the overlay of classicizing antique inspiration emerges the naturalism and impetuosity of Baroque forms.

The models for Coustou's Horses were ready by the Salon of 1740 but could not be exhibited there owing to their size. In 1745 the groups themselves, the marble for which had been selected at Carrara by Michel-Ange Slodtz, were set up at Marly, where they remained for fifty years. Their popularity probably dates from 1740 and is attested by numerous small-scale replicas as well as by written testimony.

The Marly Horses were transferred to the Place de la Concorde in Paris in 1794, then later moved to the Louvre and replaced by copies.

The Horses are one of the finest achievements of the 18th century.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Marche en Rondeau