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Andrzej PieńkosUniversity of Warsaw, Warsaw


Cyprian Godebski is the author of numerous monuments and tombstones, among others in Austria, Belgium and Russia, but he worked primarily in France. His works can be found in Paris (the best known among them are the headstones of H. Berlioz and Th. Gautier), Monte Carlo and Brittany. Probably the biggest extant work by Godebski, little known in Poland, is the stone group Madone des naufragés [Our Lady of the Shipwrecked] on the Atlantic promontory Pointe du Raz in the westernmost region of Brittany. Godebski, who spent most of his life in France, was connected with numerous ties to this region. Apart from this group, the most visible of this relationship is the bronze monument to general A. Le Flô, Godebski’s friend from St. Petersburg (the general was a French ambassador there) in the main square in Lesneven near Brest (1899).

Our Lady of the Shipwrecked (1901), commissioned from Godebski by Count de Trobriand, was going to be a private memorial to local sailors, modelled on several similar ex-votos on the shores of Brittany. However, the republican departmental authorities did not issue a permit to erect a religious monument in a public place. The refusal of the authorities was connected with the approaching decision about the separation between Church and state in France. The conflict was particularly severe in Brittany, which was considered the stronghold of traditional Catholicism, but it was also the home country of the philosopher Ernest Renan, an Anti-Christ in the eyes of some right-wing circles. The conflict escalated in 1903, when the so-called sardine crisis hit very badly Breton fishermen and various political camps, including the Catholic Church, tried to use it to expand their influence. Finally Godebski’s sculpture was erected thanks to the determination of the Bishop of Quimper, to whom it was presented by the artist as a votive sculpture in memory of his son’s death in Tonkin. Our Lady of the Shipwrecked was created in 1901–1903 in Carrara. The ceremonial inauguration of the figure, accompanied by a Mass, took place on 3rd July 1904. It was attended by approximately 20 – 30 000 pilgrims and the bishop attending the celebration paid tribute to Godebski.

Madone des naufragés follows ancient tradition of placing crosses and religious figures on mountain tops and coastal rocks. We can find a particularly large number of colossal religious figures in the French sculpture of the 19th century, especially from the period of the religious awakening supported by the government of the Second Empire. Our Lady of the Shipwrecked differs, however, from the huge statues of the Virgin Mary erected at that time in France through its strong realism and lack of obvious allusions to Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque depictions.

In contrast to his predecessors, the creators of large, static allegories or saints’ figures, Godebski portrayed almost a genre scene. However, what makes Our Lady of the Shipwrecked special, are the non-artistic factors described above. It was erected in the heat of the political and religious fight in France, when the secular Republic was on an anti-Church offensive, leading to fundamental legal decisions. Did the artistic concept of the sculpture, including the undoubtedly most interesting solution of the emotional tension between the sailor and the child Jesus was consciously adopted by Godebski because of this conflict? We do not know that.

The creation of the sculpture was initiated by lay people, but finally it was executed under the patronage of the Church, and it eventually turned into a new place of worship of the Virgin Mary in Brittany.

keywords: Cyprian Godebski, religious sculpture, academic art, Great Emigration, Brittany, ex-voto


Cyprian Godebski is the author of monuments scattered across many countries of Europe, including the memorials to Aleksander Fredro and Nicolaus Copernicus in Krakow, Adam Mickiewicz in Warsaw, Agenor Gołuchowski in Lvov, the imperial marshals Laudon and de Lacy in Vienna’s Arsenal, Gratitude to France in the Polish school in Batignolles in Paris, Adrien-François Servais in Halle near Brussels; tombstones, such as that of count Matwiej Wielhorski and actor Vasily Samoilov in St Petersburg, Hector Berlioz, Constantin Guys and Théophile Gautier, in the cemeteries of Paris; allegorical decorations of the Invalides House buildings in Lvov and the Casino de Monte-Carlo. It is not known whether the great monuments of the liberation of Peru in Lima and the Battle of Sevastopol in the Crimea, designed by him (and in most biographies recognized as completed), have ever been made. However, it is certainly known that the statues of Franz Liszt in Weimar and Henri Vieuxtemps in the Belgian Verviers (in most biographies also considered to be completed) have not been made. The works and the life of one of the most famous late nineteenth-century Poles, Misia Godebska’s father and grandson of another Cyprian, a hero of Napoleon’s epic and a poet, who had fallen in the battle of Raszyn, still hide many secrets.[1]

Possibly the largest surviving sculpture by Godebski, and certainly one of the most forgotten Polish works, is the stone group sculpture Madone des naufragés [Madonna of the shipwrecked] [Fig. 1, 5–7], standing on the Atlantic cape Pointe du Raz in the department of Finistère, the foremost west region of Brittany.[2] The place, a jagged spur of rock with a height of several meters, which continues into the ocean in the form of a few wild islands, is characterized by raw beauty (almost no vegetation except lichens and heather), an eloquent witness to the threatening presence of the ocean. Godebski’s sculpture is the only object there apart from the lighthouse and the buildings of the military station.


Living mainly in France, Godebski had strong bonds with Brittany. In addition to the above-mentioned scuplture, it is the bronze statue at the main square of the town of Lesneven near Brest that remains a trace of the most magnificent of these relationships. It is a supersize statue of General Adolphe Le Flô, a friend of Godebski’s from the time spent in St Petersburg (in the years 1871–1879 the General was Ambassador of France in Russia). The inauguration of the monument was held on 29 October 1899; the artist received ​​a substantial fee of 13,357 francs [Fig. 2].[3]

Godebski also portrayed, as early as 1889, a popular Breton poet, Léocadie Salaun-Penquer, the wife of the mayor of Brest and a co-founder of the local museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts, which houses two versions of her large plaster medallion). Leading a high life, the sculptor had wealthy friends in high positions in Brittany, whom he often visited as a guest. One of them, Count Alphée de Trobriand, with whose brother, a diplomat, Godebski had already been acquainted probably in Paris, invited the artist several times to his Breton summer residence, Castel-Hoël, and estates in Plounéour-Trez. The sculptor’s Parisian friends, artists and writers, including Stephane Mallarmé, Eugene Carrière, Gustave Geffroy, were also frequent guests there. According to the accounts of his contemporaries (in which he appears as “the Polish count”), Godebski created a sensation with his eccentric behaviour (including coach racing on the beach) and his extravagance.

Count de Trobriand, elected mayor of Plounéour, commissioned him to sculpt a Madonna for “his” village, which was to be a private monument to local seamen, like several similar memorials, no longer standing on the shores of Brittany. On 1 September 1901, Godebski wrote to the mayor, undertaking to “make a marble group of six meters, dedicated to the memory of Breton rescuers, according to the design approved by the committee”.[4] The republican authorities of the department, however, refused to issue permission to place a statue of religious significance in public. After that defeat of his prestige, Trobriand seems to have definitely abandoned the idea.

The refusal of the authorities was due to political tension and anticlerical sentiments associated with the upcoming decision in France concerning the separation of the Church and the State. The conflict had unique intensity in Brittany, recognized as the bastion of traditional Catholicism, but also as the home to the philosopher Ernest Renan, seen by some right-wing circles to be almost like the Antichrist.[5] The conflict became even more intensified in 1903, when the so-called sardine crisis hit Breton fishermen very hard – the different political camps, including the Catholic Church, tried to use it to extend their influence.

Godebski did not give up after the initial defeat of the project. Eventually, the monument stood in Brittany, thanks to the determination of the bishop of Quimper, François-Virgile Dubillard, who in the New Year’s pastoral letter on December 31, 1903 announced that Godebski himself gave him the sculpture carved in Carrara, and that it would be used in a planned tribute from the whole of Brittany to Virgin Mary. In early 1904 one of the landowners in Finistère granted some land to the Church near the town Plogoff, on a rocky promontory Pointe du Raz, which determined the ultimate success of the project. The artist accepted this new location himself and viewed the rocky promontory together with the bishop and the diocesan architect Jean-Marie Abgrall.

Madone des naufragés [Madonna of the shipwrecked] had been sculpted in the years 1901–1903 in Carrara, where Godebski often worked (and also married his second wife, Matilda Natanson; supposedly he had his own quarry there and even founded a hospice for former masons).[6] The statue, made ​​of white and gray marble, measuring 420 cm in height, was mounted on a base made of local granite and 450 cm in height.[7] The sculpture, weighing 11 tonnes, was despatched in two parts by ship from Carrara (on 24 May 1904), after which, for safety reasons, it was decided to further transport it from Genoa by rail; from the railway station in Quimper both parts were transported to the cape on special wagons pulled by several horses. Godebski, who had organized the transport, had obtained a not very impressive amount of 7,000 francs to do it. Three-week assembly on the rocks over the Atlantic was held by a team led by a local craftsman, Yves Piriou, in accordance with the design assumptions and pedestal made ​​by Abgrall. Next to it, there was to be erected a pilgrimage chapel, but permission was not obtained to build it (a temporary wooden chapel, built in 1904, stood there for several years).

Formal dedication of the sculpture was combined with the Mass on July 3, 1904. About 20–30 thousand pilgrims, for whom special means of transport had been organized from various parts of the region, participated in it; church dignitaries came not only from all over Brittany, but also from other French dioceses; there were also more than a hundred priests, admirals, senators, local aristocracy, Abalor – a famous bard and a spokesman for Breton nationalism, as well as the author of the sculpture himself.[8] A commemorative papal address was read.Conducted by Bishop Dubillard ceremony, dedicating the whole enterprise to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (on the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX), also made ​​in his speech paid tribute Godebskiemu: “When looking for a gift that would particularly appeal to our Mother, Providence came to us with a wonderful help.

Bishop Dubillard, who conducted the ceremony, when dedicating the whole undertaking to Immaculate Virgin Mary (on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX), paid tribute to Godebski in his speech: “When we were looking for a gift which Our Lady would particularly like, Providence sent us great aid. An artist of great talent, well known in France, sculptor Godebski, gave us the monumental group that he had sculpted for the Breton coasts in the quarries of Carrara, as a memorial to his son who had died in Tonkin”.[9] After the bishop’s speech spoke Godebski. An elderly man stood up, “with white hair, wearing it long, as is the habit of artists, his mustache almost black, but what is striking in the very lively physiognomy is the look. He spoke only briefly, but all came under the spell of a strong and moving speech: he is indeed a Frenchman by birth, but, as the name suggests, also a son of the martyred Polish people; it is his Polish blood that readily allowed him to give his love to the Breton people, also fighting because of their faith, and he was and still is very happy that his work has been accepted by the bishop and placed in such a great environment that will add value to the work, he is happy as well, or at least comforted by the fact that he entrusts to the devotion of the people of Brittany this memorial of a father’s love to an ever regretted son”.[10]

The ceremony was commemorated on souvenir postcards [Fig. 3–4] and special commemorative prints published by the Church, the poem Cantate à la Vierge du Raz, as well as gold and silver medals, drawn and signed by Godebski.[11] The secular press reported the event with extrordinary reserve as for its scale, and some newspapers even committed a false anticlerical provocation, arguing for example that the sculpture obscured the light of the lighthouse (which was supposed to immediately cause an accident on the ocean) and that during the crowdy ceremony there had been several fatal accidents! On the first anniversary of the dedication of the monument, there also was a ceremonial procession in which a smaller replica of Godebski’s work, allegedly also designed by him, was being carried.

The permission to erect the sculpture, issued by the republican authorities and the military authorities in Brest, responsible for the Atlantic coast of France, was associated with the (temporary) silencing of the “clerical offensive” of the Church and with the dedication of the monument to seamen who perished at sea, and to sea rescuers. For the authorities it was not a religious sculpture but a monument to the people of the sea. Was Madone des naufragés a work of religious value for the author himself? In a speech delivered during the ceremonial unveiling of the monument Godebski, as already mentioned, dedicated the sculpture to the memory of his son, Ernest, who had died at a very young age in Indochina.[12] He appealed to Breton piety but this could only have been a sign of courtesy on his part.

In the work of the sculptor, for decades highly praised in Austria, Russia, Belgium, and especially in France, we find many examples of academic production typical of that period,[13] many of his works demonstrate a successful career, an ability to make friends and obtain commissions. Among his numerous achievements, however, there is an almost total absence of religious statues; even on tombstones made by him religious themes occur only occasionally, and in the latter part of his life – after settling in France – they are almost absent. There is no information about the artist’s religiosity.

Undoubtedly Madone des naufragés is part of a very old tradition of placing crosses and religious statues on high mountain peaks and coastal cliffs. As is commonly known, objects of this type, usually crucifixes or colossal statues of Mary, have often become permanent landmarks in a given landscape or the panorama of a city. This role could indeed have been fulfilled by allegorical statues devoid of religious references: in the coastal situation and function, the most famous example is the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdy (Godebski’s Parisian friend, indeed the author of the pendant to the above-mentioned medallion of Léocadie Penquer, i.e. the portrait of her husband).

In particular, many colossal religious statues are found in the French nineteenth century sculpture, especially from the period of religious revival supported by the authorities during the Second Empire. For example, the statue of Notre Dame de Rocher, erected over the Atlantic, on the rocks of Biarritz (1865), was an imperial commission. Exeptional symbolic importance was gained by a giant statue of Notre Dame de France, towering above the town of Le Puy in Auvergne, made ​​in 1862 after melting the guns captured in the battle of Sevastopol. An enormous, gold-plated statue of the Madonna and the Child, located at the top of the hill and the tower of the church of Notre-Dame de la Garde, took patronage over Marseille (1867, Eugene-Louis Lequesne).

Madone des naufragés differs from the great statues of Mary erected in France during the nineteenth century, however, by a strong element of realism and a lack of clear historical allusions to Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque or other images. Bishop Dubillard in his inaugural speech in 1904 described the “real” scene, depicted by Godebski, in the following way: “To capture in a clear and precise way the artist’s concept, the idea inspiring his work, one must imagine the sea in anger, boats and crews fighting the sea-foam or covering waves. A young sailor, a victim of the storm, is fighting vigorously with the rapid currents, and suddenly on the nearby shore he notices Virgin Mary in a white cloak, with a star on her forehead, carrying little Jesus, who reaches out with his small hands to the unfortunate shipwreck survivor. The man, guided and supported by this vision, turns with the full force of his arms to this rock of salvation, will soon reach it, and while his left hand grabs onto it, his right hand stretches with hope to meet the arms directed to him. The artist wanted to depict this last scene and we must add that his work is complete, that this is a work worthy of all praise. Mary, baby Jesus and a cloud supporting both of them are of white marble, the sailor and the rock are of grey marble”.[14]

Unlike his predecessors, the makers of big, static allegories or statues of saints, Godebski depicted an almost genre scene.[15] In the French monumental sculpture, this group represents yet another attempt to approach the meeting theme, a theme giving a chance of a satisfactory solution to the academic problem of narrative in sculpture [Fig. 5]. While remaining essentially static, the composition includes not only a suggestion, but even a real fragment of a story (such as the story of Bishop Dubillard). A similar idea can be found in a monument such as the memorial to de Saussure and Balmat, the conquerors of Mont-Blanc, in Chamonix (Jean-Jules Salmson, 1886). In scenes of this kind, the figure that represents the unshakable order (personification, Madonna, de Saussure as an authority) and preserves the peace of the sculpture receives a visitor from a story that is happening now among us, our envoy, mostly a mundane drama actor, seeking help or encouragement. Perfectly reflected in Godebski’s work, the gestures of the characters and a childlike facial expression in Jesus are very expressive in building a compositional relationship between the figures of different orders (also highlighted by means of different materials used), while limiting the narration of the story to the most “fruitful moment” [Fig. 6–7].[16]


Madone des naufragés, however, draws its uniqueness mainly from the non-artistic factors described above. Godebski’s work stood in the heat of political and religious struggle in France, in its another sensitive time, when the republic, cultivating secularism, conducted an anti-clerical offensive, leading to fundamental legal decisions. Was the artistic concept of the sculpture, with its undoubtedly most interesting solution in the emotional tension between the sailor and little Jesus, conditioned to any extent by that conflict, certainly well known to the artist? This issue remains unresolved. On the one hand, obviously the religious meaning of the group depicted vanishes behind the situational realism of its being a monument to seamen, in accordance with secularization tendencies of the authorities. In this respect, however, Godebski is heir to a trend quite common in the art of the late nineteenth century.[17] On the other hand, however, hope flowing from Infant Jesus, with the emphasis of the language of sculpture that is almost baroque (although this time devoid of elements of allegory, often used by the artist before), makes Godebski’s work an ideological proposal that was close to the Church – maybe even inspired by it. One should note that the Madonna, created out of the secular initiative, was ultimately accomplished under the auspices of the Church and as the work establishing a new place of Marian devotion in Brittany. We do not know whether between the first draft and the final version of the monument there were any more pronounced changes in its concept and expression. It would therefore be hard to decide on the author’s intentions, but even without a diagnosis, we may consider the votive group at Pointe du Raz a perfect example of interplay of the academic and the realistic trends – in the same year in which Constantin Brâncuşi travelled to Paris (!) – as well as a clash between the secularizing trends in the spirit of Ernest Renan and attempts of religious renewal.

The latter, moreover, was given foothold by Godebski’s sculpture throughout the twentieth century, gathering the faithful at church fairs, those wonderful Breton pardons, or Marian celebrations associated with major events in the life of the local fishing community. August 1, 2004 was a great celebration of the centenary of the unveiling of the Madone des naufragés. Religious ceremonies, celebrated by the bishop of Quimper, gathered crowds in the Breton regional costumes, carrying banners and votive offerings for the Madonna.[18] For this occasion, moreover, the sculpture had undergone thorough maintenance.

At the same time, one can make an amazing discovery in Plogoff. In the rich tourist complex of parking lots, which leads to Pointe du Raz today, one would look for postcards and souvenirs relating to the Madone des naufragés in vain. There is everything there but an announcement of this large-size sculptural group, extremely attractive and often photographed. One may have the impression that it is excluded from promotion of the site because of its religious references.


Translated by Agnieszka Gicala

[1] Cf. dictionary entries: A. Ryszkiewicz, Godebski Cyprian, in: Słownik artystów polskich i w Polsce działających, vol. 2, Wrocław 1971, p. 379–384, K. Mikocka-Rachubowa, Godebski Cyprian, in: Saur Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, vol. 56, Munich–Leipzig 2007, p. 389–390. All is still totally unclear about e.g. Godebski’s French investments, i.e. ceramics factory in Fontainebleau, his own or leased quarries in the Pyrenees or the status of his grand houses in Paris. The state of research on Godebski’s place in the Parisian and the Polish émigré artistic life of the era also remains scarce. The dissertation by Małgorzatat Dąbrowska-Szelągowska Les sculpteurs polonais et la France 1887–1918 (written at Université Paris X) has not been published. The activity of dozens of Polish sculptors working in the nineteenth century in France has so far been the subject of only two, very preliminary articles: Rzeźbiarze polscy w Paryżu, 1830–1914, by K. Mikocka-Rachubowa, in: Między Polską a światem. Od średniowiecza po lata II wojny światowej, Warszawa 1993, pp. 171–199, and the present author’s Paris foyer de la sculpture européenne. La contribution polonaise, in: “Ikonotheka” 14, 2000, p. 89–122. The first attempt to outline the artist’s activity in France is the article by J. Chrzanowska-Pieńkos, A. Pieńkos, Dzieła Godebskiego, in: “Spotkania z zabytkami”, 1994, No. 6, p. 38–39.

[2] Archival research and finding this object were made possible for the present author thanks to a grant from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education: “Cyprian Godebski. The model career of a Parisian sculptor”. The author extends special thanks to those without whom that research would nothave been possible in such a wide range: Yann Celton of Archives diocesains in Quimper, Małgorzata Leguellec-Dąbrowska of the Musée Départamental Breton in Quimper, Françoise Danielle of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brest. Godebski’s relations to Brittany were for the first time examined by S. Pisarska-Leclère, Un Polonais en Finistère, in: “Art de l’Ouest”, 1993, p. 214–221. The catalogue of an exhibition devoted to Polish painters in Brittany (Les peintres polonais en Bretagne 1890–1939, Quimper 2004), mentions Godebski’s relationships with the region only briefly (pp. 11, 126–127).

[3] The idea to raise a monument to the General was proposed to the Council of Lesneven by Godebski himself, having learned – after the friend’s death – of an idea of commemorating him in the town. Work began in 1896 so this is a sculpture contemporary with his monument to Mickiewicz in Warsaw, and indeed much better artistically. In addition to the excellent characteristics of the soldier and diplomat (among Godebski’s works, it is comparable perhaps only with the face and stature of his father-in-law, Servais, in his monument in Halle), it is an interesting arrangement of scenes in bas-relief on the pedestal, depicting Le Flô’s deeds, that attracts attention.

[4] Quoted by: F. Tanter, Notre-Dame-des-Naufragés à la Pointe du Raz, in: Chretientés de Basse-Bretagne et d’ailleurs. Les archives au risque de l’Histoire. Mélanges offerts au chanoine J.-F. Le Floch, ed. Y. Celton et al., Quimper, 1998, p. 345. This sketch has not been found, the members of that committee are not known, either. The origin of Godebski’s concept, reaching the beginning of his work, also remains unclear. It is already in 1875 that the artist exhibited in Warsaw a sculpture of Madonna and Child, supposedly destined for Brittany: “[…] the draft statue of Virgin Mary with baby Jesus, to be made for Brittany, 40 feet in size, recommends itself by the extraordinary idea. The Virgin kneels with one knee slightly raised, in a furrowed coat, leaning forward, holding in both hands the Divine Infant that has a serene, pleasant face and seems to bless the world with both hands. Let us imagine this huge, bronze statue on a church on a rock over the ocean, when the golden aureola of Virgin Mary reflects the last rays of the sun, and we will understand that the impression must be unexprimable” –  Władysław Bartkiewicz wrote then (after the exhibition) in “Bluszcz”, 1875, No. 26, p. 205.

[5] The unveiling on September 14, 1903, of his monument, designed by Jean Boucher, in his hometown Tréguier next to the cathedral, also caused a lot of tension throughout the region. Father Millon, a writer and an archaeologist from Rennes, referred to it on the occasion of a ceremony at Pointe du Raz: “Facing the monument to the author of La Vie de Jesus, so insulting to Christ, one should place the Calvary, in Pointe du Raz, in this land watered by so many maternal tears, one should place the image of the one whose name, full of hope, all of our sailors do not cease to call upon: Stella Maris” (quoted in: D. Giacobi, Autour de la statue de Renan, in: “Les Cahiers de l’Iroise” 154, 1992, avril–juin, p. 37).

[6] Cf. K. Mikocka-Rachubowa, Scultori polacchi a Firenze nella seconda e Carrara meta dell’Ottocento, in: Carrara e il mercato della sculture, ed. S. Berresford, Milano 2007, p. 234. The enquiry in the Archivio di Stato in Massa, central for the region, and Accademia in Carrara, as well as consultations with local experts on the subject, have unfortunately not confirmed any of these tracks. The works by Godebski in Carrara is, of course, mentioned in the sources of that time, in the National Museum in Warsaw, and there are also photographs of him in the local quarries.

[7] On the pedestal, there is a metal foundation plaque attached in an ornamental frame, with the inscription: “This statue, the work and the gift the sculptor Godebski, was erected thanks to the efforts of His Eminence Francois-Virgile Dubillard, through devotion of his dear faithful of the diocese, to the glory of the Patroness of Sailors on the Jubilee of the Immaculate Conception, and as a testimony of gratitude for Catholic charity in times of the sardine crisis (1903), was blessed and unveiled by His Eminence Cardinal Laboure, in the presence of many bishops, priests and faithful, on July 3, 1904”.

[8] Details of the background of the origin of the sculpture and its unveiling were dutifully reported by Tanter 1998 (ft. 4), p. 343–346.

[9] Lettre pastorale de Monseigneur l’Evêque de Quimper et de Léon… annonçant l’érection de la Statue de Notre-Dame-des-Naufragés à la Pointe-du-Raz, Quimper, 1904, p. 11.

[10] This speech was thus summarized by an anonymous author of the booklet Inauguration benediction et de la statue de Notre-Dame-des-Naufragés a la Pointe-du-Raz, Quimper 1904 (a special supplement to “La Semaine religieuse” of 8 July 1904), p. 13. It is the only record of the contents of this speech, in which there is an interesting theme of Breton independence, surprising in the mouth of usually quite conservative Godebski.

[11] So far, we have been unable to find any trace of them or confirm the attribution.

[12] This story is not clear. Misia Godebska, whose diaries are not a particularly reliable source, complained of the artist neglecting paternal responsibilities towards her as well as his other children. Ernest was, according to her, to have got into bad company and was subsequently confined in a boarding school, then sent (as a penalty?) to work in overseas colonies and die in Tonkin (the name of the northern province of Vietnam under French protection, today’s Bac-Bo). So was the dedication made by the sculptor associated with an act of expiation when saw his guilt as a father?

[13] In which he clearly surpassed his teacher in Paris, a renowned academic sculptor, François Jouffroy.

[14] Lettre pastorale 1904 (ft. 9), p. 13.

[15] There is very rich literature concerning the complex question of realism in sculpture. See especially: B. Foucart, Emmanuel Frémiet, le réalisme clinique, in: “Beaux-Arts Magazine” 66, 1989, mars, pp. 39–43; C. Chevillot, Réalisme optique et progrès esthétique: la fin d’un rêve, in: “Revue de l’art” 104, 1992, no. 2, p. 22–29. See also: A. Pieńkos, „Zbyt wiele rzeczywistości”. Uwagi o paranoi XIX-wiecznego realizmu, in: Rzeczywistość. Realizm. Reprezentacja. Materiały seminarium metodologicznego Stowarzyszenia Historyków Sztuki. Nieborów, 26–28 października 2000, ed. M. Poprzęcka, Warszawa 2001, pp. 99–114.

[16] Note that many years earlier, in a work depicting two French soldiers from the war in 1870, Godebski had presented a similarly static composition, with an inner dramatism expresses in gestures of care in one of the figures (a group of bronze in the Polish Library in Paris). Similar direction can be seen in sculptures of groups of people designed by other artists for the commemoration of that war, for example, in Louis-Ernest Barrias’ monument Defense of Saint-Quentin in 1870 (1881, has not survived) or in the sculpture by Antonin Mercié Quand Même! (Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek) – both works stately France-Marianne rescues a falling soldier.

[17] Cf. among others: L. Nochlin, Realizm, transl. into Polish by W. Juszczak and T. Przestępski, Warszawa 1974, pp. 73–77 [English version: Harmondsworth, 1975]; M.P. Driskel, Representing Belief: Religion, Art and Society in the 19th Century France, Pennsylvania State University, 1992. About the complex conditions of “religious realism” in the art of the late nineteenth century I wrote in: Okropności sztuki. Nowoczesne obrazy rzeczy ostatecznych, Gdańsk 2000, chapter Cierpienie Chrystusa i walka o realizm, pp. 196–210.

[18] Information about the anniversary celebration along with photographic documentation: www.plogoff-pointeduraz.com/documents/statuenotredamedesnaufrages accessed on 27 Sept. 2010.

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