COUSTOU, Nicolas
(b. 1658, Lyon, d. 1733, Paris)


Marble, height 135 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Between them the Coustou brothers produced such statues as the decorative and dynamic pair of Apollo by Nicolas and Daphne by Guillaume, originally on an island in the Bassin des Carpes at Marly, now in the Louvre. The Apollo especially is a conscious echo of Bernini. This is sculpture vigorous and robust, fully modelled, with the emphasis on action and space - the space of the open air. The pose has to be immediately effective when approached from several angles, glimpsed against a background of trees, or, as in the case of Apollo, made the centrepiece of a fountain. Just as Marly itself represented rural freedom in comparison with Versailles, so this garden sculpture escapes from any requirements of state or religion. For such sculpture, so quickly to grow weathered, a finished surface was not required. A coarser texture is responsible for the animation of surface, with bold, wind-blown draperies and muscular bodies, and with an energetic drama of expression. A momentary action, in which gestures almost speak, is seized upon, with a preference for the natural over the dignified. Guillaume's Daphne, with her desperate, gesticulating hands, looks forward to the 'natural' drama of his horses and their tamers, executed many years later.