Photo-portrait of the sculptor, 1853
Artist Sculpture

David d’Ange is a brilliant sculptor who, not wanting to give up his dream

Photo-portrait of the sculptor, 1853
Photo-portrait of the sculptor, 1853

David d’Ange is a brilliant sculptor who, not wanting to give up his dream, almost committed suicide in his youth

David d’Ange (March 12, 1788 January 5, 1856) is a famous French sculptor of the first half of the 19th century, a prominent representative of romanticism and neoclassicism. D’Ange was also an outstanding medalist, creating many unique coins and medals that are of great value to collectors these days. The best masterpieces of the master’s work adorn the squares of many French cities, and his biography is full of interesting events.

During his professional career, David d’Ange has captured in stone, bronze and plaster a huge number of outstanding people of his era. In addition to the full-length statues, he created hundreds of busts, as well as a number of unique tombstones, installed at the famous Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise.

Commemorative medal depicting Celeste Mott, wife of Achilles Deveria, 1828
Commemorative medal depicting Celeste Mott, wife of Achilles Deveria, 1828


David d’Ange (real name Pierre Jean David) was born on March 12, 1788 in the provincial city of Angers, located 300 km south-west of the French capital. His father was engaged in the manufacture of carved ornamental sculptures from wood, and it was he who instilled in his son a love of art from an early age.

After graduating from school, Pierre Jean wanted to go to Paris to further study the profession of a sculptor, but his parents were categorically against this. Desperate, the young man decided to commit suicide, but the suicide attempt was unsuccessful. The shocked father did not tempt fate any longer and immediately allowed his son to leave for the capital.

Monument at the grave of Marcos Botsaris
Monument at the grave of Marcos Botsaris

A talented young man on the first attempt in 1808 entered the School of Fine Arts, in the workshop of Philippe-Laurent Roland.

He soon became one of the best students and drew the attention of Jacques-Louis David, who at that time was rightfully considered the most respected French artist.

Already in 1809, at the academic exhibition, the works of the young sculptor were awarded the highest award, after which Jacques-Louis David invited him to his workshop and personally took up teaching the young man. It was then that Pierre Jean, so that he would not be confused with the great teacher, decided to change his name and chose the creative pseudonym David d’Ange.

Monument to General Jacques-Nicolas Gobert
Monument to General Jacques-Nicolas Gobert

In 1811, the young graduate was awarded the highest award of the Academy, he became a laureate of the Rome Prize in sculpture. David immediately went to Italy, where he spent the next five years. Here he was fortunate enough to meet two of the greatest sculptors of the era Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen. The stay in Italy turned out to be very useful for the young master, here he was able to see the masterpieces of the great artists of the Renaissance and ancient times.

Pediment of the Parisian Pantheon. David d'Ange
Pediment of the Parisian Pantheon

Returning to France in 1816, d’Ange found the country in dire straits.

Napoleon lost the war of the united coalition of European powers and was deposed, the Bourbons returned to power, and foreign soldiers were in full control of Paris. David, without thinking twice, went to London, where the art market was in noticeably better condition. The artist lived in England for two years, but did not achieve much success. In addition, many British colleagues considered him a close friend and even a relative of Jacques-Louis David, accusing him of political crimes and supporting the Bonaparte regime.

Wounded Philopoemen (1837). David d'Ange
Wounded Philopoemen (1837)

Having experienced many hardships in a foreign land, in 1818 David d’Ange returned to Paris, where by that time life had gradually stabilized. Possessing an outstanding talent, the young master quickly began to gain popularity in the capital, gradually acquired wealthy customers and could work in peace. In 1826, d’Ange became a professor at the National Academy of Arts and proved himself to be a brilliant specialist in this position. Over the course of 30 years of teaching, he has trained dozens of French artists, including Victor Bernard; Guillaume Cabasson; Eugène Faure Jean-Louis Chenillion; Jules Cavelier.

In 1828-34, David d’Ange made a long journey across Europe, visiting Germany, Austria, Switzerland and England. This trip, during which the master created many busts and statues, brought the sculptor well-deserved recognition outside his homeland. Upon returning home, the artist continued his teaching career, and also became interested in making commemorative medals for the French government and private customers.

In 1848, David d’Ange enthusiastically hailed the revolution that overthrew the Bourbon regime.

He even became a member of the National Assembly and took an active part in the activities of parliament. But in 1852 another coup took place in France and Napoleon III came to power. Already an elderly artist, due to his political views, he was forced to leave the country for Greece, where he lived for the next year and a half.

Monument to Johann Gutenberg, 1848. David d'Ange
Monument to Johann Gutenberg, 1848
The hot Balkan climate had an extremely negative impact on the sculptor’s health and caused serious heart problems.

Feeling the approach of imminent death, the artist turned to the French king with a request to allow him to return to his homeland. His petition was soon granted, but the master’s life was inexorably drawing to a close. And a few weeks after returning to Paris, on January 5, 1856, David d’Ange died at the age of 67. As befits a great French artist, his remains were buried in the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Tomb of David d'Anger at the Père Lachaise cemetery, 1856
Tomb of David d’Anger at the Père Lachaise cemetery, 1856
The most famous works of David d’Ange

Among the impressive creative heritage of the genius master, there are many worthy works of art. And yet, the most famous works of David d’Ange are considered:

  • The pediment of the Parisian Pantheon (1820) is a masterpiece that brought universal recognition to the young author. The artist received an order for the production of a relief of religious themes from the French king Louis XVIII shortly after the restoration of the Bourbon rule.
  • Monument to General Jacques-Nicolas Gobert (1823) the most famous tombstone of the sculptor at the Père Lachaise cemetery. The author depicted a military leader on horseback at the moment of tragic death from a blow with a sword.
  • The Wounded Philopoemen (1837) is a work done in the best traditions of classical sculptural art. The ancient Greek strategist is determined to fight to the end with the enemy, despite the severe injury.
  • The monument at the grave of Marcos Botsaris (1855) is a monument created by the artist shortly before his death. The tomb of the hero of the War of Independence of the Greek people has been adorned with the figure of a little boy for over 150 years, symbolizing the revival of a proud ancient country.

David d’Ange was a great European sculptor of his era, whose work was highly valued not only at home, but also abroad. He also presented to descendants a huge number of commemorative coins and medals depicting the greatest sons and daughters of France.