PUGET, Pierre
(b. 1620, Marseille, d. 1694, Marseille)

The Meeting of Alexander the Great and Diogenes

Marble, 332 x 296 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

In 1670 Puget found in the dockyards at Toulon two blocks of marble which had been abandoned there, and after some difficulty he got Colbert's permission to use them for statues. From them he carved the Milo of Crotona and the relief of Alexander and Diogenes. The relief represents the meeting of Alexander the Great and Diogenes "the Cynic", the Greek philosopher (about 412 BC-399 BC), which probably occurred at the Isthmian Games. The story goes that Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher (in his tub), asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied, "Stand out of my sunlight." Alexander still declared, "If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes."

This work is the most important marble relief which came from the hand of Puget. It bears the same relation as the Milo to Roman Baroque. The work with which it most obviously challenges comparison is Algardi's relief of the Meeting of Leo I and Attila in St Peter's. But the differences are more striking than the similarities. Whereas Algardi lays the emphasis on movement into depth, Puget keeps everything in a series of planes near the surface of the relief and parallel with it. Algardi breaks into the middle of his composition with a vista leading to an indefinite distance, whereas Puget carefully closes his background with an architectural setting. The movement of Algardi's figures is sinuous and full of contrapposto; Puget's figures make a series of straight diagonals across the surface of the marble. In fact he seems to turn back once more to his first master, Pietro da Cortona, and to have translated into high relief the latter's angular, diagonal compositions.