Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (May 11, 1827, Valenciennes –October 12, 1875, Courbevoie) was a French sculptor and painter. His early studies were under François Rude. Carpeaux won the Prix de Rome in 1854, and moving to Rome to find inspiration, he there studied the works of Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrocchio.
Staying in Rome from 1854 to 1861, he obtained a taste for movement and spontaneity, which he joined with the great principles of baroque art. In 1861 he made a bust of Princess Mathilde, and this later brought him several commissions from Napoleon III. He worked at the pavilion of Flora, and the Opéra Garnier. His group La Danse (the Dance, 1869), situated on the right side of the façade, was criticised as an offense to common decency.
He never managed to finish his last work, the famous Fountain of the Four Parts of the Earth, on the Place Camille Jullian. He did finish the terrestrial globe, supported by the four figures of Asia, Europe, America and Africa, and it was Emmanuel Frémiet who completed the work by adding the eight leaping horses, the tortoises and the dolphins of the basin.
Sculptures by Carpeaux
- Ugolin et ses fils - Ugolino and his Sons (1861, in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) with versions in other museums including the Musée d'Orsay
- The Dance (commissioned for the Opera Garnier)
- Jeune pêcheur à la coquille - Neapolitan Fisherboy - in the Louvre, Paris
- Girl with Shell
- Antoine Watteau monument, Valenciennes
Carpeaux submitted a plaster version of Pêcheur napolitain à la coquille, the Neapolitan Fisherboy, to the French Academy while a student in Rome. He carved the marble version several years later, showing it in the Salon exhibition of 1863. It was purchased for Napoleon III's empress, Eugènie. The statue of the young smiling boy was very popular, and Carpeaux created a number of reproductions and variations in marble and bronze. There is a copy, for instance, in the Samuel H. Kress Collection in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Some years later, he carved the Girl with a Shell, a very similar study.
Carpeaux sought real life subjects in the streets and broke with the classical tradition. The Neapolitan Fisherboy's body is carved in intimate detail and shows an intricately balanced pose. Carpeaux claimed that he based the Neapolitan Fisherboy on a boy he had seen during a trip to Naples.