Two views of Susan Durant's bust of Triqueti. [Click to obtain larger images.]
Baron Henri-Joseph-François de Triqueti (1803-1874) was one of the major sculptors of the nineteenth-century, eminent both in France and England. Born in Conflans, Loiret, not far from Orléans, he was the son of a Piedmontese industrialist and diplomat, and had a privileged, cultured upbringing. In particular, his artistic inclinations were encouraged by the family's neighbour and friend, the Romantic painter Anne-Louis Girodet. Triqueti went on to study under Louis Hersent, and exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1831 onwards, winning a medal for sculpture at his debut. This marked the start of an illustrious career as "one of a new generation of Romantic sculptors who rejected the Neo-classical teaching of the École des Beaux-Arts in favour of learning from medieval and early Renaissance examples" (Lemaistre 416).
In 1834 Triqueti married Julia Forster, granddaughter of the eighteenth-century British neo-classical sculptor Thomas Banks, and daughter of the English ambassador's chaplain in Paris. He received various commissions through the ambassador himself, Lord Cowley. So the connection with England was established early on in his career. But in the same year (1834) he won the major commission for the bas-reliefs on the mighty bronze doors of the Madeleine. He was widely praised for these reliefs when they were installed in 1841. They have been taken as a political statement in support of the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe, "King of the French," previously Duke of Orléans (see Ribner 85-9). But they also show Triqueti to have been above all "a great religious sculptor" (Rykner). His success here resulted in his being awarded the Legion of Honour in 1842. The patronage of the princely Orléans family, then at the height of its power, brought him still more fame. For example, he sculpted the effigy for the tomb of the young Duke Ferdinand of Orléans in 1842, and was also commissioned to work on Napoleon's tomb at the Invalides. Although this project never materialised, he was at least responsible for two crucifixes there, one in bronze and the other in marble (see "France").
In 1848, Triqueti, "sculptor to the princes" and clearly a monarchist, was injured at the barricades. While he was recovering, he converted to Protestantism. He started to sign his name "Henry," and began to spend much of his time in England, where Louis Philippe had already sought refuge, and was now staying in the royal residence of Claremont in Surrey. Strong family connections between the exiles and the British royal family brought Triqueti into prominence here too: most important of all, in 1864, Queen Victoria commissioned him to collaborate with Sir George Gilbert Scott on transforming the Wolsey Chapel attached to St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle into the Albert Memorial Chapel (1864-74).
For most of the rest of his life, Triqueti worked on the design and execution of the chapel's marble ornamentation, and on Prince Albert's cenotaph itself. Isabelle Lemaistre characterises the latter as Gothic Revival. As she says, it shows "the recumbent figure of the Prince in medieval armour" resting on "a base adorned by a delicate colonette structure" (417) and includes allegorical statues of the virtues, attendant angels, and the mourning figures of Royalty and Science. The effigy was put in place in 1872, and the whole piece of work is majestic. However, the fact that it was Gothic in style had more to do with Scott than the sculptor, whose decoration of the walls with marble inlay-work or tarsia was inspired by the Renaissance period.
Triqueti was very versatile: he had started as a painter, and he also wrote, preparing educational pieces for apprentices on such diverse subjects as George Stephenson and Elizabeth Fry. One of his papers was on "The Three Museums of London" (the British Museum, the National Gallery and what is now the V & A). Since he himself was a Protestant convert, he also wrote a book about the history of Protestantism in France. He was a cultivated man of considerable learning. His two large marble tarsia panels on classical themes — the Marmor Homericum and the Yates Memorial — are still on display in different parts of University College, London.
Triqueti's use of the English spelling of his Christian name may be significant in more than one way: he must have felt that he was more valued in England. On his stays in London, from the later 1850s onwards, he used the address of the beautiful, gifted and intelligent young woman who had been his devoted pupil and had remained with him as his assistant — Susan Durant. From 1866-73, this was her home at 3, Bryanston Place in Marylebone. He would meet clients in her studio nearby, in Conduit Street. However, he kept his studio and base in Paris, was Secretary of the Presbyterial Council of Paris, and was very active in charitable works there, especially in relation to the education of poor children, and the provision of care for aged paupers. He died in France after an operation, not long after Susan Durant had met an similar fate herself. Both are buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery.
Triqueti was, by all accounts, charming and amiable, but of a "modest and retiring disposition" ("France"). Perhaps because he never sought the limelight, perhaps too because his major commissions were not only hugely time-consuming but "official" in nature, his accomplishments are not widely fêted. That is changing. Le Musée Girodet de Montargis and Le Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans held a joint retrospective in 2007-8, which was accompanied by a catalogue and led to other publications, and more interest from the Louvre. Still, it is just the beginning. The catalogue itself has been criticised for leaving many aspects of his career unexplored, or inadequately explored, and for not providing a chronology (which would indeed have been helpful; see note below). Rykner concludes, "Much is still needed for a complete understanding of one of the major sculptors of the XIXc." Later work has made some of these deficits good, but another (obviously not insurmountable) problem is that because of his family's roots in Italy and his own visits there, and because his oeuvre was spread out between two other countries, it is in Italian and French, as well as in English.
The Triquetis' story has a sad ending but a happy footnote. Elizabeth Barrett Browning mentions a visit from "Madame de Triqueti" in in Paris in a letter of 28 February 1856 (227). Harriet Beecher Stowe met the whole family, desribing their daughter Blanche as "charming" (Stowe 289). But when their son Edouard died in a tragic accident at the age of 21, their marriage seems to have collapsed. Triqueti eventually turned to the loyal Durant, who bore him a son in October 1869, when she was already in her early forties. After both she and Triqueti died, the little boy was brought up by Blanche until her own death from TB in 1886.
Young Henry Paul Harvey Durant was educated first at Rugby and then at New College, Oxford. By then his care had passed to Lady Gregory, the Irish playwright and friend of Yeats. Now known simply as Paul Harvey, he married Lady Gregory's niece in 1896. Although he had dropped his mother's surname, the couple did call their only daughter Susan. Harvey had an extremely distinguished career at home and abroad in the civil service, and was knighted in 1911. After retiring with many honours, he became famous in an entirely different field, as the author of the much-loved Oxford Companion to English Literature (1832; not superseded until Margaret Drabble's edition of 1985, in which many of his original entries remain unchanged). He also prepared the Oxford Companions to classical and (largely) French literature. It is very pleasing to think that this was the outcome of the Triqueti-Durant relationship.
There are still some areas of uncertainty in Triquet's life. For instance, New York Times obituary gave the year of Triqueti's birth as 1802, Lemaistre in The Grove History of Art has 1804, and a number of art galleries and other art sites on the web, like artnet, have 1807. However, the catalogue of the 2007/8 major exhibition, in the locality of his birth, must be presumed to be accurate. Then, even in Jason Tomes's latest entry for Paul Harvey in the ODNB, Blanche is described simply as "a cultivated Frenchwoman married to an expatriate American," rather than being identified as his half-sister. Interestingly, Harriet Beecher Stowe not only met Blanche at the Triqueti's home, but was invited to her nineteenth birthday, when she described her as their "eldest daughter" (290; emphasis added). There may be more to be learned about the sculptor, and there is certainly more to be written about his achievements.
Banerjee, Jacqueline. "A Good Start: The Making of Paul Harvey." The Times Literary Supplement. 7 January 2011: 14-15.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Letters, Vol. II (1806-1856). Ed. Frederic E. Kenyon. London: Macmillan, 1897. Internet Archive. Web. 23 May 2016.
"France." The Times. 15 May 1874: 5. Times Digital Archive. Web. 24 May 2016.
Garrihy, Andrea. "Durant, Susan Durant (1827-1873)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 29 March 2009.
Lemaistre, Isabelle. Entry on Triqueti. From Monet to Cézanne (The Grove History of Art), ed. Jane Turner. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 416-17.
New York Times Obituary ("Baron Triqueti, Sculptor"). 18 May 1874. Web. 23 May 2016.
Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1982.
Ribner, Jonathan P. Broken Tablets: The Cult of the Law in French Art from David to Delacroix. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Rykner, Didier. "Henry de Triqueti (1803-1874)." This is a review of the catalogue for the 2007-8 exhibition in France.
Stowe, Charles Edward. The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Compiled from her Letters and Journals by her Son. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin (Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press), 1889. Internet Archive. Web. 23 May 2016.
Tomes, Jason. "Harvey, Sir (Henry) Paul (1869-1948)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 29 March 2009.
Last modified 23 May 2016