Léopold Harzé’s “Comedy in Sculpture” [1]

Léopold Harzé’s “Comedy in Sculpture” [1]

By Denis Pellerin

There are two fields in which photographs should always have been – and should still be – taken for the stereoscope: Fashion and Sculpture, because they are all about volume. This article is about stereo photographs that were taken of some of the works of Belgian sculptor Léopold Harzé. I am not convinced many people these days are familiar with his name outside of Belgium but there was a time, not so long ago, when his sculptures were eagerly sought after and bought by collectors from all over the world.

Joseph Léopold Harzé was born at Liège on 29 July 1831, the third of the twelve children born of the union of gunsmith Jean-Jacques Harzé (1800-1881) and his wife Charlotte Hubert (1806-1893). With so many mouths to feed Mr. Harzé senior had to work hard and, as soon as he was old enough, Léopold helped him as much as he could. His talent for sculpture bloomed at a very early age and he would delight his schoolmates with little figures carved from a hazelnut, the stone of a fruit, a chunk of chalk or a piece of wood.

On 15 November 1845, not very long after his fourteenth birthday, Léopold was accepted at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Liège where he studied for nine years until 15 December 1854. Harzé was not only talented but hard-working and won many awards during his stay at the academy of fine arts. However, his main interest lay in capturing in clay the everyday life of the working people of Liège. A keen observer, he would walk through the streets, wander around the squares and stroll through the busy and picturesque Liège market, fixing in his mind’s eye some attitudes and expressions which he would then model out of clay and exhibit in his father’s shop window. These unpretentious early works caught the eyes of the people of Liège who soon got into the habit of purposely walking past his father’s shop just to wonder at these slices of life. There was always a small crowd there and Léopold’s reputation as an artist grew fast.

In 1859 an exhibition of his work was held in Liège which was reported in the Journal des Beaux-Arts. “This exhibition,” the reviewer wrote, “consists of a series of terra cotta groups and figurines reproducing with great clarity, sometimes finesse, always liveliness, the types, trades, games and failings of the popular class of this province.” [2] The pièce de résistance was a large group representing the market of Liège and containing over a hundred figures, cleverly composed around the Fontaine du Perron, a very real and popular landmark of the town. This masterpiece, fortunately, did not disappear into some private collection but was bought by the town where it was exhibited for a long time at the Liège Museum of Fine Arts before being moved to the Musée de la vie Wallonne, where it can still be seen today. [3] “The most interesting part, without a doubt, of this exhibition,” the reviewer continued, “are the children: the kids at school, playing marbles, heads or tails, cheval fondu [4], singing or tricking some poor bourgeois into some of these traditional pranks which are of all countries and will remain of all times, here are the subjects in which Mr. Harzé especially gives full scope to his verve and gives proof of a very great talent for observation; there are such scenes which look as if nature itself had been frozen still.” [5] There is a lot of work and effort in all of Harzé’s scenes and yet, as Alfred Micha [6] wrote about him in his 1900 book L’œuvre de l’humoristique statuaire Léopold Harzé (The work of comic statuary Léopold Harzé), “one cannot feel the work: it looks as if all these figures simply dropped off the fingers of the artist.” [7]

In 1864 Léopold Harzé moved from Liège to Brussels and his fame soon spread over Europe and even the United States (the notes he made in a copy-book show he had at least one buyer from New York). However, his real breakthrough came with the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle. Harzé sent eight of his works there [8] which were all photographed for the stereoscope by the firm Léon & Lévy who had paid for the monopoly to be the sole photographers of the exhibition like the London Stereoscopy had done before them for the 1862 London one. The photographs were published under numbers 743 to 750 and captioned as follows:

Nº 743 – Le Mercredi des Cendres, par L. Harzé.
Nº 744 – Tartufe, par L. Harzé.
Nº 745 – Falstaff, par L. Harzé.
Nº 746 – Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, par L. Harzé.
Nº 747 – Le Tribunal, par L. Harzé.
Nº 748 – Tant va la Cruche …, par L. Harzé.
Nº 749  – Gamins. Le Vengeur, par L. Harzé.
Nº 750 – La Mère aveugle, par L. Harzé.
01-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-743 copy

Illustration 01 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 743 – Le Mercredi des Cendres, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

02-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-744 copy

Illustration 02 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 744 – Tartufe, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

03-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-745 copy

Illustration 03 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 745 – Falstaff, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

04-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-746 copy

Illustration 04 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 746 – Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

05-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-747 copy

Illustration 05 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 747 – Le Tribunal, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

06-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-748 copy

Illustration 06 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 748 – Tant va la Cruche …, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

07-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-749 copy

Illustration 07 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 749  – Gamins. Le Vengeur, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

08-Expo1867-LL-Harzé-750 copy

Illustration 08 – Léon & Lévy. Exposition Universelle de 1867. Nº 750 – La Mère aveugle, par L. Harzé. Stereo card. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

Number 745 was inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2,  and shows Falstaff at the Boar’s Head Inn with Dorothy “Doll” Tearsheet sitting on his lap and caressing his cheek [9];  Numbers 744 and 746 were made respectively after Molière’s Tartufe (Act IV, Scene 5) and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Act III, Scene III) [10]; Number 750 illustrates one of Pierre Béranger’s song La Mère Aveugle (The Blind Mother), in which a blind mother enquires from her daughter – who is otherwise engaged sitting on the lap of her lover – why she has stopped spinning. Number 748, which full title should be Tant va la cruche à l’eau qu’à la fin elle se casse (The pitcher goes often to the well, but gets broken at last), is a reference to a popular French saying. The other three terra cotta tableaux are probably from Harzé’s own imagination and based on some events he witnessed. Number 749’s original title is Le cerf-volant déchiré ou Le Vengeur (The Torn Kite, or The Avenger) and shows a boy in an oversized coat taking the defense of a younger kid who is being bullied and is crying because the other boy has destroyed his kite.

Harzé’s statuettes drew crowds at the 1867 Exhibition and when there is a crowd there are journalists who want to know what the fuss is about. The first person to mention Léopold Harzé’s work was the special correspondent of The Times at the Paris Exposition. He or she published a fairly long piece in the issue of May 20th 1867. Entitled THE GREAT FRENCH EXHIBITION, it examines terra cotta works, from large architectural pieces to tiles, and focuses at length on Harzé’s miniature sculptures :

There has never been produced in porcelain anything as good as the little terra cottas which are exhibited by Leopold Harzé, of Brussels. They are so wonderfully good that it is difficult to believe that they can have passed through the fire. […]

How many of the little figures with which we are familiar in the biscuit porcelain of the French would be endurable without colour to set them off? Here are whole scenes wrought in the biscuit of faïence – all in one dull tint of stone colour – nothing but the modelling to attract us. Nothing has ever been produced so lifelike in the biscuit either of porcelain or faïence. There is an elaborate scene from the Bourgeois Gentilhomme – the sword scene – which is perfect in its way – the action of the figures, the expression of their faces, the texture of their dresses, and the appearance of the furniture amid which they move, being all rendered with exceeding delicacy, vivacity, and truth.

Or turn to another model – that of The Blind Mother. It represents a little incident which occurs in the kitchen of a very humble cottage. A young girl is being caressed by her lover, while her blind mother, in an easy chair by the fire, turns round with a half-stupefied, half-inquiring expression of countenance – unable to understand what her daughter is about, and innocently anxious to find out. The expression of her face as she calls for an explanation; the easy indifference of the daughter as she sits on the knee of her lover; and the contentment of this lover are given with humourous fidelity. Every little detail, too, in the furnishing of the cottage – the spinning wheel, the chairs and table, the little statuette of Napoleon, the birdcage, the pots and pans and the bird perched on top of the cupboard – are worked out minutely and with a graceful ease.

There are eight or nine of these little scenes – of varying merit as regards their conception, but all of wonderful merit as regards their execution. If one could be quite sure as to the extent of the firing they have undergone, and therfore as to their hardness, it would be difficult to praise them too highly. In point of fact, the artist designates himself a statuary, and his works are ranged in the Belgian section of the Exhibition, not with pottery but with sculpture. [11]

A much shorter piece appeared on 29 June in The Builder which is however interesting as it shows how much Harzé’s figures were worth at the time.

In the Exhibition building, Léopold Harzé has several extremely clever “Groupes en Terre cuite,” the figures small in size, but most carefuly and minutely manipulated, the subjects taken from Molière, Shakspeare [sic], Béranger, &c. One of these, “La Mère Aveugle,” with three figures in it, was alone unsold, the attendant said, and the price was 3,000 or 4,000 francs, he did not know which ! [12]

In July 1867 it was the turn of Hippolyte Gautier (1835-1927) to briefly mention Harzé’s work in his Les Curiosités de l’Exposition Universelle.

The Belgian section in the main building holds a table filled with little sculptures which are difficult to see comfortably on account of the visitors that flock around them; but you do have to see them; they are numbers 233 to 239. [13]

Then it was the turn of French dramatic critic and journalist Francisque Sarcey (1827-1899) to devote nearly two pages to Léopold Harzé in a piece he wrote for the 23rd issue of the Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée. Sarcey, like many other critics, did not recognize Harzé’s work as art but understood why the general public was attracted to it.

Go to the Belgian section of fine arts: you will not need to ask where the terracottas of Léopold Harzé are, the crowd will lead you there. An audience, constantly renewed, gathers around the table that supports them. All heads bend down the better to see: they cry out in admiration and joy.

It is because Mr. Léopold Harzé gives us the only thing that we understand well in terms of art, and the only one, alas! which is not artistic: I mean wit. Wit should never be involved in sculpture, any more than in painting. One is only responsible for enchanting the eye with beautiful shapes, like the other with pure lines, enhanced with dazzling colors. But the misfortune is that beautiful shapes say nothing to our eyes, which have not received the necessary education to understand them. We are a little more accessible to the joy of luminous colors; but we can nevertheless say that what we are above all concerned with in a picture is the idea which it expresses.


The terracottas of M. Léopold Harzé are witty genre paintings, which lack color, but which, on the other hand, have relief. They are small interior scenes with a very simple idea behind them, and could easily be transported on the canvas, without changing anything in the arrangement of the slightest accessory.

This explains the eagerness of the public, and its admiration. People look at these terracotta tableaux, as they do paintings by Biard [14]. They understand then even faster; for there are always, whatever one does, in a painted surface, conventions, tricks which confuse poorly trained eyes. Here, everything is captured at a glance. It is nature itself; all objects have their relief, and the eyes can go around them. It is a reduction of life, but it is life.

There is therefore no question of high art here, nor even of any art, high or low: the works of M. Harzé are nonetheless very curious and very amusing. They testify to an extreme skill of hand, an inconceivable patience, a remarkable science of arrangement, and a marvellous taste for the picturesque.


These terracottas are masterpieces, real masterpieces, but they could well occupy in art almost the same place as a ship carved by a native of China from a piece of ivory, a Bible handwritten on the bark of a tree, a soulless sonnet composed to strange rhymes by one of our young Parnassians, an agate cup copied by Desgoffes, an air of country music where the clarinet imitates the clucking of the hens, and the basses the mooing of the oxen, all which is, in a word, only a tour de force ingeniously and brilliantly executed.

This does not prevent Mr. Léopold Harzé from having a great success, and, let us confess, a well-deserved one. He gives the crowd what they want. They are the crowd who understand nothing of the plastic arts, and who will doubtless not understand anything about them for a long time to come. And we, who are writing this, admit that, in this respect, we are part of the crowd.[15]

Sarcey’s piece was illustrated with eight woodcuts by Charles Jean Louis Courtry (1846-1897) which you can see below:

09-Exposition 1867 Illustrée-HARZÉ

Illustration 09 – Charles Courtry. Six of the eight statuettes exhibited by Léopold Harzé at the 1867 Paris Exposition. L’Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée, p. 357. Author’s collection.

In its 23 to 29 February 1868 issue the Italian illustrated magazine L’Emporio Pittoresco used these six woodcuts, in the same layout, to illustrate an article about Leopold Harzé’s terra cottas. One funny fact about the header for the Emporio Pittoresco, at least for the year 1868, it that it shows a young woman holding an oversized Brewster-type stereoscope.

10-Emporio Pittoresco-23 to 29 February 1868-Léopold Hazé

Illustration 10 – Charles Courtry. The same woodcuts published in February 1868 in the Italian illustrated magazine L’Emporio Pittoresco. Author’s collection.

11-L'Emporio Pittoresco- Header copy

Illustration 11 – Header for the Emporio Pittoresco. The header changed several times over the years but the one used in 1867-8 features a young woman holding an oversized stereoscope.

The next writers to discuss Léopold Harzé’s work were to be found on this side of the English Channel. The first one, perfumer and businessman Eugene Rimmel (1820-1887) wrote about him briefly in his Recollections of the Paris Exhibition of 1867:

Last not least, we shall mention Harzé’s terra-cotta groups, which are constantly surrounded with crowds of admirers. They are all in the humourous style, and, although small, are finished with such perfection that not only the expression of the features, but the most minute details are faithfully rendered. Among the best and most comical, we may cite an old dowager sitting for her portrait with stately gravity, whilst the painter overcome with fatigue is dropping asleep behind the canvas; a thief, with a most rascally face and dilapidated costume, being brought to trial; and two scenes of Molière’s plays, one from Tartuffe, and the other from the Bourgeois Gentilhomme. [16]

The second one, George Augustus Sala (1828-1895) wrote more extensively about Harzé’s work in Notes and Sketches of the Paris Exhibition. After discussing the difficulties inherent to the terra cotta process, here is what he said about Harzé himself, which, as you can see for yourself, was, on the whole, high praise indeed:

M. Leopold Harzé, of Brussels – a gentleman whose name I candidly own I never heard before, and of whose antecedents or individuality I have not the vaguest knowledge — appears to have surmounted, in a most astonishing manner, the manifold obstacles which lie in the path of the artist in terra cotta; and he has produced a series of works in this material that, for skilful modelling and careful finish, may vie with the rarest of the wax figures from Mexico; that surpass the well-known booty-dividing hrigands and guitar-playing and macaroni-eating beggars in which the terracotians of Naples have attained such celebrity; and that leave a long way behind even the delightful little papier maché statuettes of toreadores, contrabandistas, chulos, and aguadores, which you purchase at Malaga and Alicant. Mr. Harzé exhibits ten groups in terra cotta, numbering each from two to six figures; and it is not alone by their finish that they are remarkable. They are all replete with a sly humour, almost Hogarthian in its finesse. There is a scene from “Tartufe,” and never was a more hypocritical villain immortalised in clay than has been moulded by M. Harzé. There is the duel scene from the “Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” with the sauciest soubrette and the drollest bourgeois M. Jourdain ever conceived. There is a paraphrase—an unconscious one, I dare say — of Mulready’s “Wolf and the Lamb” : —a big, rufiianly boy, who has bullied and beaten a smaller one, but is suddenly overtaken by Nemesis in the shape of another boy, the biggest and most ruffianly of all three. There is a cottage scene, which looks like one of Jan Steen’s interiors put into high relief, and in which Béranger’s charming ballad of the blind mother and the pair of sweethearts—“Lise, vous ne filez pas” — is illustrated. There is a Trial Scene with a thief — such a thief! with such a beard and such a blouse. I am sure it must have been a case of “vol avec escalade et effraction.” This rascal is arraigned before three stern judges, while the Procureur du Roi reads the act of accusation. Then there is Doll Tearsheet sitting on Falstaffs’s knee, while the naughty old fat man is bidding her sing improper songs, and telling her that he shall receive money on Thursday, and asking her what stuff she will have a kirtle of. You can almost hear Mrs. Quickly in the corridor, and “Sneak’s noise outside,” and the pressure inwards of the knight’s fat jowl by Doll’s hand is a triumph of plastic observation in what the Italian’s call morbidezza, or the “art of fleshiness.” There is a charming rustic scene entitled —“ The pitcher goes often to the well, but gets broken at last ” — a young girl at a fountain with Love hiding among the bushes, till he snuggles close to her and whispers perilous stuff in her ear. And there is a wonderful composition of a painter’s studio: an old dowager in hoop and brocade, sitting for her portrait, with a self satisfied smirk on her countenance, and her little dog asleep on her knee. The dowager, however, is wholly unaware that there is someone else asleep in the studio; the painter to wit, who, overcome by fatigue, has sunk into a sound slumber, with his head against the canvas on his easel. The rogue! it is easy to see how it is that Somnus has overtaken. him. On the floor beneath his chair are perceptible a pair of very coquettish satin boots, while his own pierrot’s costume and the most unmentionable portions of a debardeur’s costume, complete the evidence of this tale of guilt. The wretch ! There is somebody else asleep in an alcove not far from that studio. I said the boots were of white satin. You may ask how, the material of the whole being terra cotta, I could have arrived at such a conclusion ? I answer that the evidence, quite unmistakable, of this and other facts, is due to the marvellous texture which M. Harzé has given to clay. He seems to be able to do everything with and in his stubborn material. Lace, filigree, embroidery, the pile of velvet, the ribbing of silk, the sheen of satin, the embroidery on a ribbon, the nap of cloth, the dull softness of felt, the harder surface of leather, the roughness of stone, the smoothness of ivory, the fluff of feathers, the embossed mosaic of Berlin wool, the very grain of wood and veining of marble, the exquisite anatomy of leaves and ferns, the blading of grass, the petals of flowers, the down which is under the wings of birds—all these he has imitated in baked clay. His figures have backgrounds, too, with curtains, pictures, bird-cages, busts, bookcases, candlesticks, sheets of music, the very crotchets and quavers accurately noted. I hold these terra cottas of M. Leopold Harzé to be the most admirable specimens of purely imitative art that have been seen these thirty years. [17]

After the 1867 Exposition Harzé went on working a lot and creating more miniature scenes in clay. In the winter of 1868-9 he visited Italy where he found inspiration for more tableaux, one of which, at least, sent to the International Exhibition that was held in London in 1872. For some reason which I fail to understand his name does not feature in the catalogue of the Fine Arts Department although other artists working in terra cotta are listed there. I have therefore not been able to find how many pieces by Harzé were exhibited there and were it not for the stereo photographs that were taken of his terra cottas by British photographer William England (c.1830-1896) we would have next to no pictorial trace of his presence at this exhibition. [18] I know from these pictures there were at least six terra cotta models by Harzé which, as far as I know, appear as follow in the series of stereocards published by William England:

33. Rejected Lover (scene from Molière), by Léopold Harzé, Belgian Court.
34. The Puzzled Gamekeeper, by Léopold Harzé, Belgian Court.
35. [I have yet to find a copy of that image and cannot even give a title]
36. The Bottle, group in terra cotta, by Léopold Harzé, Belgian Court.
37. The Gossips, terra cotta, by Léopold Harzé, Belgian Court.
38. Neapolitan Gipsy Dance, by Léopold Harzé, Belgian Court.

The group called Rejected Lover in William England’s stereo cards is actually entitled Le Festin de Pierre (The Stone Feast) and is inspired by the beginning of Molière’s play “Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre”. As with Harzé’s models after Molière and exhibited in 1867, lines from the play are carved on the base of the statutette.

12-William England-34-The Puzzled Gamekeeper copy

Illustration 12 – William England. International Exhibition 1872. Stereo card. 34. The Puzzled Gamekeeper. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

13-William England-36-The Bottle copy

Illustration 13 – William England. International Exhibition 1872. Stereo card. 36. The Bottle. Author’s collection.

14-William England-37-The Gossips copy

Illustration 14 – William England. International Exhibition 1872. Stereo card. 37. The Gossips. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

15-William England-38-À Pouzolles-Naples copy

Illustration 15 – William England. International Exhibition 1872. Stereo card. 38. Neapolitan Gipsy Dance. Author’s collection.

It is to be noted that William England’s images were also available as Magic Lantern Slides, as illustrated below.

16-William England-Magic Lantern Slide copy

Illustration 16 – William England. International Exhibition 1872. Magic Lantern Slide. 34. The Puzzled Gamekeeper. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy

Although the public still seemed to like Harzé’s works, the press hardly mentions his presence. The Times, for instance, grants Harzé less than two lines in its columns, in a piece entitled SCULPTURE AT SOUTH KENSINGTON:

Some comic and amusing terra-cottas, by M. Harzé, in the Belgian annexe, should not be missed […] [19]

The Saturday Reviews gives him a bit more space but the journalist refers more to the 1867 Paris exhibition than to the 1872 London one, which does not really help:

We must not leave the plastic arts without directing the visitor to the Belgian annexe. Here are the best terra-cotta busts of the year (283, 284). M. Rodin and M. van Rasbourg have a facile, sketchy, staccato way of modelling and incising the clay. Also should be  noted humorous and grotesque groups, likewise in terra cotta, by the famous M. Leopold Harzé of Brussels. In the Great Exhibition of Paris crowds gathered around clever scenes in miniature by this caricaturist in clay, taken from Molière, Shakspeare [sic], and Béranger. M. Harzé in the way of grotesque sculpture has no rival; but kindred spirits may be found on the pictorial side of art; the late Herr Hasenclever, sometimes termed the Hogarth of Germany, occasionally indulged in these comic and sarcastic strains. But comedy in sculpture, even when reduced to the scale of statuettes, must necessarily have a restricted range. [20]

An illustrated magazine with heliotype illustrations published in separate issues from July 1872 to June 1873 under the title Art Pictorial and Industrial has two pages and one illustration (The Puzzled Gamekeeper) which, once again, do not bring anything new:

Group in Terra Cotta

By Leopold Harzé.

The Group here represented is one of a series exhibited in the Belgian annexe at South Kensington, all cleverly executed, and all possessing claims to admiration, though of an order entirely new to the eye of the English Art-critic. In each group the artist has treated some incident of Flemish rural life with extraordinary fidelity to nature, great power of individualization, and a curious ad- mixture of whimsical grotesqueness. The title given (in English) to the one before us, is “The Puzzled Gamekeeper ;” but there seems to be some slight misapprehension here. “ Puzzled ” the principal person in it may well be, by the unaccustomed trophy that dangles from his stick, to the wonder and delight of the gaping boys behind ; but he is not exactly a gamekeeper, his uniform being that of a Garde Champêtre.

Leopold Harzé, who executed these clever works, was born at Liege, his original occupation being that of an engraver, and his amusement in leisure hours the making of clay models. One of these, representing the market-place of his native town, containing a great number of figures, many of them clever portaits of local celebrities, at length brought him into notice among his countrymen; since which he has devoted himself entirely to the production of these groups, and as he consistently refuses to reproduce his subjects, they possess a higher value than those of other artists in the same material , who rarely scruple to multiply their successful works. We have not space to describe the others now on view at the International Exhibition, but they will well repay a visit.

And that’s about it, except for a very short reference in a book published in 1876 under the title Wayfaring Notes. Second Series. A Holiday Tour round the World by an author only known by his initials S. J.

A collection of small terra cotta figures by L. Harzé, of Brussels, showed much humour as well as artistic skill. They reminded me strongly of the admirable statuettes of Rogers of New York. [21]

The Rogers mentioned in the lines above is John Rogers (1829-1904), an American sculptor, born in Salem, Massachussetts, who, like Harzé took his inspiration from ordinary people but whose works, unlike his Belgian counterpart’s, were mass-produced as plaster casts and sold for as little as $15. Charles Dickens was apparently a collector of Rogers’ Groups, as his statuettes were called, and bought every one he could lay his hands on. Rogers’ Groups were photographed for the stereoscopes by E. T. Anthony, Charles Bierstadt and the Kilburn brothers, among others. They are often found as pirated copies of stereo cards. There are some eighty different known Rogers’ Groups but over two hundred and thirty-seven by Léopold Harzé.

17-John Rogers-Taking the Oath copy

Illustration 17 – New H Series. A pirated stereo card showing one of the most popular of John Rogers’ Groups: Taking the Oath and Drawing Rations. 1866. Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

We have seen that Harzé’s statuettes were photographed for the stereoscope by Léon & Lévy in France and by William England in Britain but what about Belgian photographers ? I am glad to say that the Brand brothers, from Brussels, published stereos of some of Harzé’s works. The photographs are unfortunately undated but seem to have been made around the 1870s. They are not easy to find – at least outside Belgium – so that I have no idea how many were produced but you will find below two examples from my archive.

18-Brand Frères-Mannekenpis copy

Illustration 18 – Brand Frères. Mannekenpis. Author’s collection.

19-Brand Frères-Souvenir des Halles de Paris copy

Illustration 19 – Brand Frères. Souvenir des Halles de Paris (Souvenir of the Paris Covered Market). Author’s collection.

After 1872 I have not been able to find any more stereos of Harzé’s work although the artist was still very much active then. His style, however, evolved away from the sketch-like figures to become more polished, more “academic” in a way. In 1875 Harzé organised an exhibition of his work at the Cercle artistique de Bruxelles and in 1879 he was awarded the Order of Leopold, the oldest and highest order in Belgium. After that a lot of his later works, mostly busts, were cast by the Brussells based Compagnie des Bronzes. One of the last pieces he made, a graceful water carrier, decorates the Montefiore fountains at Liège where he eventually went back to towards the end of his life and where he passed away on 20 November 1893, at the age of sixty-two.

Denis Pellerin

Copyright © The Stereoscopy Blog. All rights reserved.


[1] The expression “comedy in sculpture” was used in The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art, Volume XXXIV, on 17 August 1872, p. 218.

[2] Le Journal des Beaux-Arts, 30 juin 1859, p. 95.

[3] I have only seen photos and videos of it so far but it is my firm intention, some day, to go to Liège and see the original.

[4] Cheval fondu, literally melted horse but actually meaning collapsed horse, was a popular game with boys and involved one group of players climbing or jumping on the backs of a second group in order to build as large and/or long a pile as possible or to cause the group playing the part of the horse to collapse. This game is known under many different names in the United Kingdom including Buck Buck, Johnny-on-a-Pony, Polly on a Mopstick, High Cockalorum, Strong Horses Weak Donkeys, and Hunch Cuddy Hunch.

[5] Le Journal des Beaux-Arts, Idem.

[6] Alfred Henri Joseph Michée (1845-1925), better known under his pen name of Alfred Micha, was a Belgian politician.

[7] Alfred Micha, L’œuvre de l’humoristique statuaire Léopold Harzé, p. 7.

[8] Some sources mention nine and others ten but the official catalogue of Class 3: Sculpture and engraving on medals, lists only eight, numbered 18 to 25.

[9] The same scene inspired several painters, among whom Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Thomas Stothard (1755-1834), Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), John Masey Wright (1777-1866) and Eduard von Grützner (1846-1925).

[10] M. Jourdain wants to show his maidservant Nicole that fencing is a useful achievement and also to teach her a lesson for her impertinence but she turns out a better fencer than he is. Charles Robert Leslie (1794-1859) painted the same scene for the 1841 exhibition of the Royal Academy under the title Monsieur Jourdain Fences his maid, Nicole, with his Wife looking on.

[11] Unsigned article. The Times, 20 May 1867, p. 10.

[12] The Builder, Volume XXV, 29 June 1867, p. 469

[13] Hippolyte Gautier, Les Curiosités de l’Exposition Universelle, July 1867, p. 144.

[14] François Auguste Biard (1799-1882) was a French painter who travelled to Italy, Greece, the Middle East, Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, Spitsbergen, Lappland, North America and Brazil. He specialized in narrative paintings but was criticized for inserting humour in serious subjects. He was shortly married to author and novelist Léonie d’Aunet, before she became the mistress of Victor Hugo, was arrested for adultery (he was not !), served two months at the Saint-Lazare prison, then spent six months in a convent.

[15] Francisque Sarcey, L’Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée, p. 355-6.

[16] Eugene Rimmel, Recollections of the Paris Exhibition of 1867, 1868, p. 160.

[17] George Augustus Sala, Notes and Sketches of the Paris Exhibition. “The Terra Cottas of Léopold Harzé”, 1868. pp, 93 to 102.

[18] Actually, we would have one, as The Puzzled Gamekeeper was shown as a heliotype illustration in volume 1 of a publication entitled Art Pictorial and Industrial: an Illustrated Magazine.

[19] The Times, 27 July 1872, p. 4.

[20] The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art, Volume XXXIV, 17 August 1872, p. 218.

[21] S. J., Wayfaring Notes. Second Series. A Holiday Tour round the World. 1876, p. 231.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s