1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coustou

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COUSTOU, the name of a famous family of French sculptors.

Nicolas Coustou (1658–1733) was the son of a wood-carver at Lyons, where he was born. At eighteen he removed to Paris, to study under C. A. Coysevox, his mother’s brother, who presided over the recently-established Academy of Painting and Sculpture; and at three-and-twenty he gained the Colbert prize, which entitled him to four years’ education at the French Academy at Rome. He afterwards became rector and chancellor of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture. From the year 1700 he was a most active collaborator with Coysevox at the palaces of Marly and Versailles. He was remarkable for his facility; and though he was specially influenced by Michelangelo and Algardi, his numerous works are among the most typical specimens of his age now extant. The most famous are “La Seine et la Marne,” “La Saône,” the “Berger Chasseur” in the gardens of the Tuileries, the bas-relief “Le Passage du Rhin” in the Louvre, and the “Descent from the Cross” placed behind the choir altar of Notre Dame at Paris.

His younger brother, Guillaume Coustou (1677–1746), was a sculptor of still greater merit. He also gained the Colbert prize; but refusing to submit to the rules of the Academy, he soon left it, and for some time wandered houseless through the streets of Rome. At length he was befriended by the sculptor Legros, under whom he studied for some time. Returning to Paris, he was in 1704 admitted into the Academy of Painting and Sculpture, of which he afterwards became director; and, like his brother, he was employed by Louis XIV. His finest works are the famous group of the “Horse Tamers,” originally at Marly, now in the Champs Elysées at Paris, the colossal group “The Ocean and the Mediterranean” at Marly, the bronze “Rhône” which formed part of the statue of Louis XIV. at Lyons, and the sculptures at the entrance of the Hôtel des Invalides. Of these latter, the bas-relief representing Louis XIV. mounted and accompanied by Justice and Prudence was destroyed during the Revolution, but was restored in 1815 by Pierre Cartellier from Coustou’s model; the bronze figures of Mars and Minerva, on either side of the doorway, were not interfered with.

Another Guillaume Coustou (1716–1777), the son of Nicolas, also studied at Rome, as winner of the Colbert prize. While to a great extent a copyist of his predecessors, he was much affected by the bad taste of his time, and produced little or nothing of permanent value.

See Louis Gougenot, Éloge de M. Coustou le jeune (1903); Arsène Houssaye, Histoire de l’art français au XVIIIe siècle (1860); Lady Dilke, Gazette des beaux-arts, vol. xxv. (1901) (2 articles).