Nicolò Paganini


Nicolò Paganini

1832 France

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Called by Janet Seligman ‘perhaps the caricaturist’s most successful single work’ this statuette shows the famed musician Niccolò Paganini. Thanks to the brillance of Dantan’s execution but also because of the aura of legend that surrounds the name of Paganini, the present sculpture, which resembles a twisted vine, has a strength and energy quite out of proportion to its small size

Paganini’s first visit to Paris took place in 1831. When he arrived in France, after being acclaimed in Italy and Germany, the virtuoso was the craze of Paris. His strange appearance along with his marvellous playing much intrigued his contemporaries who heard many stories about the mysterious violin player . His unusual physique – his arms and fingers were double-jointed – seemed to explain his technical prowesses.

Born in a family of sculptors, Jean-Pierre Dantan started his apprenticeship with his father, an ornamental wood-carver and entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1823. After spending two years in Rome, Dantan returned to France in 1831, where he set about producing his statuettes caricaturing men and women prominent in the world of art, theatre, music and letters. He found his inspiration in artistics circles, and always refused to show any political engagement. Considered in his day to be the originator of caricature portraits, Dantan paved the way for Honoré Daumier’s (1808-1879) series of satirical busts of members of the Parlement and the vigour of his statuette of Paganini announces Daumier’s Ratapoil (ca. 1851). In accordance with the artist’s wishes, his widow donated a large collection of his works to the Musée Carnavalet in Paris in 1888, where a bronze cast of the present statuette can be seen, along with another plaster stauette and two ‘serious’ busts of Paganini.
Comparative literature:
- Prosper Viro [Félix Andry], Charges et bustes de Dantan Jeune, esquisse biographique … par le docteur P. V, Paris 1863 [in verse].
- J. Seligmann, Figures of Fun: The Caricature Statuettes of Jean-Pierre Dantan, 1957,
- Dantan jeune : caricatures et portraits de la société romantique, exhib. cat. ed. by Philippe Sorel, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 1989, no. 53.
Biographical references:
- The dictionary of art, ed. by Jane Turner, Macmillan 1996, and rev. ed. online,, entry by Adrian Ward Jackson.
Height 31.00 cm (12.20 inches)
Stock Code
Signed and Dated: Dantan Je 1832
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