CARPEAUX, Jean-Baptiste
(b. 1827, Valenciennes, d. 1875, Courbevoie)

Ugolino and His Sons

Marble, height 196 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This splendid sculpture epitomizes the Romantic preoccupation with extreme physical and emotional states. The subject is taken from Dante's Inferno, in which a suspected traitor, Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, is condemned to die imprisoned inn a tower with his sons and grandsons. Carpeaux has depicted the moment at which the count, yielding to hunger and despair, contemplates cannibalism.

The work, completed during the last year of the sculptor's residence at the French Academy in Rome, caused a public sensation and immediately established Carpeaux as the heir of the French Romantic sculptors of the 1830s. He developed a special reverence for Michelangelo in Rome, and much of the power of the Ugolino derives from the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

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