Mathieu Kessels: le Deluge.

One of my vivid summer memories comes in form of a neoclassical sculpture.
Discreetly posed ( in Brussels' Royal Art Museum) between Jacques Louis David's Death of Marat and the grandiose works of Rubens, "Le Deluge", by Matthieu Kessels, stopped me in my tracks.
Hypnotised, I circled this work of art.
Encompassing every detailed fold, hair and muscle.
Desperately trying not to intrude on the intimate pain so present.
Unable to look away.
A sculpture so powerful and beautiful its image burned my memory .
The strong balanced composition, the fluidity of the lines, the interwoven movement, the raw pain, the simple drama all quite simply... set in stone.

Mathieu Kessels was born in Maastricht on the 20 May 1784, he died in Rome in on the 3rd of March 1836. A sculptor with a low profile but incredibly hypnotic works.

(b Maastricht, 20 May 1784; d Rome, 3 March 1836). Flemish sculptor. He gave up his apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Venlo to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He then went to Hamburg and subsequently stayed in St Petersburg between 1806 and 1814, where he probably trained with the Antwerp sculptor Joseph Camberlain (1756-1821). In 1814 he returned to the Low Countries and spent several months at Anne-Louis Girodet's studio in Paris, where he exhibited at the Salon of 1819. In the same year he went to Rome, where his terracotta St Sebastian Martyr (sketch in Brussels, Mus. A. Mod.) won the first prize in a competition organized by Antonio Canova. During this period he began working in the studio of Bertel Thorvaldsen, whose pupil and assistant he became. From the beginning of the 1820s in his numerous variations on the theme of the Diskobolos (plaster; examples in Brussels, Mus. A. Mod.), Kessels demonstrated his devotion to Classical and Hellenistic sculpture as interpreted by Thorvaldsen according to the doctrines of Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Among his numerous classically minded patrons was William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, who commissioned two marble bas-reliefs, Day and Night (1819), and Diskobolos Preparing to Throw (1828; all Chatsworth, Derbys). In the late 1820s Kessels renounced the pure classicism of Thorvaldsen in favour of the more seductive style of Canova and the pathos of the Italian Baroque, as in his monument to the Comtesse de Celles (marble, 1828; Rome, S Giuliano dei Belgi). The romantic emphasis of his Flood Scene (plaster, c. 1833; Brussels, Mus. A. Mod.) differentiates it from the works of his last period, which are imbued with religious sentimentality. In Rome Kessels taught the Liege sculptors Louis Jehotte (c. 1803-84) and Eugene Simonis, who exerted an influence through their teaching at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. On Kessels's death his studio, having been inventoried by Thorvaldsen, was acquired by the Belgian government and transferred to the Musee d'Art Moderne, Brussels.
Photos by Brett


Pencil Sanity said…
WOW, this is stunning and I love the info you presented us with.
Dors said…
Maria (above) says it all. Stunning.
I too just want to keep looking at it. It's a beautiful piece.
Are you going to draw it Sheona?
To get the graphite pencils around this. wow.
Dulce M. Mora said…
Had the same experience this summer! I was hypnotized by the sculpture and after walking to another gallery before leaving the museum I had to go back for just one last look. Found your post looking for info on Kessels and this sculpture.

Dulce M. Mora said…
Had a similar experience summer of 2012. I was hypnotized by this sculpture and before leaving the museum had to go back to for just one last look before leaving. Found your blog post while googling info on Kassels.
Hello Dulce! It is hypnotic and has to be seen in 3D. I fully understand you going back for a "one last look". The Deluge is a sculpture that one cannot ignore or forget. Looking forward to going back to see it soon. Maybe combined with a visit to the ever popular Magritte Museum ;)

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