Ferdinand Barbedienne

Ferdinand Barbedienne (Jan 10, 1810 – Mar 21,1892) was a French metalworker and manufacturer, he was well known as a bronze founder.  Born the son of a small farmer from Calvados,  Barbedienne started his career as a dealer in wallpaper in Paris. In 1838 he went into partnership with Achille Collas (1795-1859), who had just invented a machine to create miniature bronze replicas of statues. Together they started a business selling miniature antique statues from museums all over Europe, thus democratising art and making it more accessible to households. From 1843 they extended their scope by reproducing the work of living artists and also diversified by making enamelled household objects. 

The F. Barbedienne foundry was started in Paris in 1838 by Ferdinand Barbedienne and his partner, Achille Collas, who was the inventor of a machine that would mechanically reduce statues. At first they produced bronze reductions of antique sculptures of Greek and Roman origin. Their first contract to produce bronzes modeled by a living artist was made in 1843 when they arranged to produce the works of Francois Rude. They barely survived the revolution and financial collapse of 1848 which caused many artists and foundries to declare bankruptcy. Barbedienne actively pursued contracts with the many sculptors of Paris contracting with David D'Angers, Jean-Baptiste Clesinger, and even producing some casts for Antoine Louis Barye, as well as others.

Achille Collas died in 1859 leaving Ferdinand Barbedienne as the sole owner of the foundry which by that time had grown to employ over 300 workers at their workshop in Paris. Barbedienne became President of the Reunion of Bronze Makers in 1865,a post he held until 1885. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the shortage of raw metals caused him to have to stop making sculptures but he did receive a contract from the French government for the production of cannons which kept his foundry open. After the war he resumed his casting of sculptures and put even more effort into signing contracts with various sculptors.

Barbedienne purchased 125 casting models from the late Antoine Louis Barye's sale in 1876. He set about casting and selling editions of these sculptures which was very successful, devoting an entire catalogue to these works. Ferdinand Barbedienne died on March 21, 1891 and was mourned by many in the world of sculpture. It was said that he strove to the highest quality in his castings Albert Susse said of him that he was the "pride of the nation" and that that he "carried the splendor of our industry so loftily to all international competitions". The running of the foundry was taken over by Gustave Leblanc, a nephew, and continued the high standards set by Barbedienne. The foundry set up agencies in Germany, Britain, and the United States to market their production. Leblanc actively purchased models and production rights form sculptors including Auguste Rodin and the estates of sculptures including Emmanuel Fremiet. The foundry continued under the stewardship of M. Leblanc until 1952.

Ferdinand Barbedienne Links to Explore

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