The model of the quadriga of the Louvre.
Plaster and wood with patina and gilding.
Model (or architectural project) representing a quadriga whose wagon is led by Victory distributing crowns, she is accompanied by two putti. Composition of wood and plaster painted with gold leaf, resting on a base also gilded with gold leaf. The whole is encased in a mahogany presentation box.
This model is probably part of the projects for the the triumphal arc of the Carrousel of the Louvre.
In 1806, the neoclassical sculptor François Frédéric Lemot, who was much appreciated by the emperor, was asked to take part in the construction of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, directed by Denon. Percier and Fontaine drawing planned to top the triumphal arc with a quadriga pulled by the main ornament : the Constantine horses from Rome.
Indeed, at the end of the Italian campaign in 1798, Bonaparte brought back the famous statues representing the four horses of Constantine. The new triumphal arch of the Carrousel, which was a pastiche of the ancient Roman arches, formed the perfect base to receive these exceptional works of art. When they arrived in Paris, the statues caused a sensation, the gazettes spoke of them abundantly and models in reduction were undoubtedly made at that time.
Our model is most likely based on the one of the horses of Saint Mark's with the same color and a smaller scale than the one of the chariot in order to preserve the effects of perspective since the sculpture is 15 meters high and was intended to be seen from a low angle.
The wagon led by Victory and Peace was supposed to host the statue of the Emperor. But the sovereign had it removed: "It is not for me to make statues. Let the Victories and the wagon be completed, but let the latter remain empty".
After the fall of the Emperor in 1815, France returned the horses, the chariot and the two figures were removed and destroyed. Then, in 1828, Baron Bosio took up the same theme and created a representation of the Restoration guided by Peace, this is the model that is still in place today.
This figure of the Victory distributing crowns appears on two Parisian monuments:
The first one tops the fountain at Place du Palmier in Chatelet, it is decorated with several sculptures by Louis Boizot and was erected at the same time as the Carrousel arch (1808).
The second is a bas-relief located on the eastern facade of the Louvre Palace, it was realized by Pierre Cartellier during the same period of time (1807). This version is similar to our model, since the Victory distributing the crowns is accompanied by putti at the front of the chariot.
The fact that the model is installed in a presentation box and decorated with a gilding and a patina suggests that it may have been exhibited or presented. It is therefore possible that the realization of the quadriga was the object of a competition, as was customary for such prestigious commissions. Our model could be one of the models that was not selected. It could be a model given by Louis Boizot or Pierre Cartellier, and they reused the image of the Victory for the other projects that we mentioned earlier.