Bust of a Woman and a Dove by Paul-François Berthoud (1870-1939), Circa 1900
A true plastic feat, this bust by the sculptor Paul-François Berthoud combines the dreamlike nature of the flora with the realism of a female portrait. The work, conceived as a humpback, presents disparate characteristics: on the base rests a dove with flanks whipped by the waves. Above it emerges a woman’s face, her eyelids lowered over the bird. The whole is crowned by a wave, stuck in time. The fusion of the water and the woman’s hair contributes to the surprise, making this work a polymorphic magma. The author combines the art of the portraitist with obvious symbolistic influences: the play between the woman and the bird invites us to go back to the origins of the myth, while being carried away by an underlying dreamlike dimension.
Paul-François Berthoud (1870 – 1939)
Paul-François Berthoud was a sculptor, painter and engraver. He began exhibiting his sculptures at the end of the 19th century in various salons and made his debut in 1898 with the mention “Honorable” at the Salon de la Société des artistes français.
The artist is largely distinguished in museum collections for his busts and heads of women from the artistic world, amongst which is the tragedian Sarah Bernhardt, who became one of his favourite muses.
The primacy the sculptor gives to women is explained by their importance in the emerging Symbolist aesthetic. Bernhardt’s meticulous treatment of her faces reinforced his talent as a portraitist. He creates a canon mixed with Art Nouveau influences which are reflected in this bust, like the symbolistic influences: the withdrawal towards the inner world, the plasticity of the material and the dreamlike character are the main components.