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Large 19th Century French Bronze "Prince Hamlet & the Gravedigger, Shakespeare"

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Monumental 19th Century French Bronze Depicting "Prince Hamlet & the Gravedigger, Shakespeare" by Victor Thiebaut.
Signed on the sides of the base: Par Vor Thiebaut 1865. and Costa de B

Prince Hamlet and the gravedigger from Act V, scene i. of Shakespeare's tragedy.

The Story... In the churchyard, two gravediggers shovel out a grave for Ophelia. They argue whether Ophelia should be buried in the churchyard, since her death looks like a suicide. According to religious doctrine, suicides may not receive Christian burial. The first gravedigger, who speaks cleverly and mischievously, asks the second gravedigger a riddle: “What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?” (V.i.46–47). The second gravedigger answers that it must be the gallows-maker, for his frame outlasts a thousand tenants. The first gravedigger corrects him, saying that it is the gravedigger, for his “houses” will last until Doomsday. Hamlet and Horatio enter at a distance and watch the gravediggers work. Hamlet looks with wonder at the skulls they excavate to make room for the fresh grave and speculates darkly about what occupations the owners of these skulls served in life: “Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now . . . ?” (V.i.90–91). Hamlet asks the gravedigger whose grave he digs, and the gravedigger spars with him verbally, first claiming that the grave is his own, since he is digging it, then that the grave belongs to no man and no woman, because men and women are living things and the occupant of the grave will be dead. At last he admits that it belongs to one “that was a woman sir; but, rest her soul, she’s dead” (V.i.146). The gravedigger, who does not recognize Hamlet as the prince, tells him that he has been a gravedigger since King Hamlet defeated the elder Fortinbras in battle, the very day on which young Prince Hamlet was born. Hamlet picks up a skull, and the gravedigger tells him that the skull belonged to Yorick, King Hamlet’s jester. Hamlet tells Horatio that as a child he knew Yorick and is appalled at the sight of the skull. He realizes forcefully that all men will eventually become dust, even great men like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Hamlet imagines that Julius Caesar has disintegrated and is now part of the dust used to patch up a wall. Suddenly, the funeral procession for Ophelia enters the churchyard, including Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and many mourning courtiers. Hamlet, wondering who has died, notices that the funeral rites seem “maimed,” indicating that the dead man or woman took his or her own life (V.i.242). He and Horatio hide as the procession approaches the grave. As Ophelia is laid in the earth, Hamlet realizes it is she who has died. At the same moment, Laertes becomes infuriated with the priest, who says that to give Ophelia a proper Christian burial would profane the dead. Laertes leaps into Ophelia’s grave to hold her once again in his arms. Grief-stricken and outraged, Hamlet bursts upon the company, declaring in agonized fury his own love for Ophelia. He leaps into the grave and fights with Laertes, saying that “forty thousand brothers / Could not, with all their quantity of love, / make up my sum” (V.i.254–256). Hamlet cries that he would do things for Ophelia that Laertes could not dream of—he would eat a crocodile for her, he would be buried alive with her. The combatants are pulled apart by the funeral company. Gertrude and Claudius declare that Hamlet is mad. Hamlet storms off, and Horatio follows. The king urges Laertes to be patient, and to remember their plan for revenge.

About the artist: Victor Adolphe Thiébaut , born in 1828 and died in 1888 is one of the most illustrious founders of French art. He is the creator of the Art Foundry Thiebaut Brothers , one of the largest and most prestigious art foundries in France during the 19th and 20th centuries. His achievements are visible throughout the world and especially in Paris. In 1849, after being associated with him, his father Charles Antoine Floréal left him the reins of the family foundry " Thiébaut & Fils ", a company manufacturing loops and medals, cylinders for printing canvas and paper, machine parts steam and other industrial objects made of bronze and copper. Two years later, in 1851, Victor Thiébaut decided to start a new activity of art foundry. He created the "Thiébaut Frères Art Foundry". It is from this time that the house will experience great prosperity and international artistic renown.
Victor Thiébaut was a perfectionist. He believed that the perfection of cast iron was the main point of making a work. This way of thinking earned him the trust, the friendship and the advice of the sculptors of the time. The first works of Victor Thiébaut are exhibited throughout Europe. The London Exhibition in 1862 gave him the Knight's Cross of the Legion of Honor . That same year, he was elected mayor of the 10th arrondissement of Paris . Over the years, the fame of the Thiébaut Frères Art Foundry enabled the company to produce more and more important works in collaboration with prestigious artists. In 1860, Victor Thiébaut realized his first Parisian work: the fonts of "Agriculture" and the "Work" of Gumery. These works are visible on one of the fountains of the square-Émile Chautemps. In 1861, he produced a monumental work for the city of Paris: the bronze group "Saint Michael slaying the devil" by Duret, installed on the fountain Saint Michel. In 1863, another monumental work installed in the heart of the capital. Victor Thiebaut performs the statue of Napoleon I er , installed at the top of the Vendôme column . The statue was shot down in 1871 and repaired in 1875 by the Thiébaut Frères Art Foundry. Between 1864 and 1899, Victor Thiébaut realized many monumental works, still today, throughout the capital, including " The Triumph of the Republic ", place de la Nation , the "monument to Joan of Arc", place the Pyramids , the "Lioness of the Sahara", the Louvre palace , many works present in the Luxembourg gardens , the Tuileries gardens , the Jardin des Plantes , and in many other places. In 1878, the "Thiébaut Frères Art Foundry" cast the work " Charlemagne and its Leudes ", installed on parvis Notre-Dame . Victor Thiébaut died in 1888, leaving his sons Victor and Jules with orders for the family business. Until his last days, Victor Thiébaut worked on two monumental orders that will be completed and installed after his death. One of the most visible works made by the "Fonderie Thiébaut Frères" was undoubtedly the replica of the "Statue of Liberty", installed on the bridge of Grenelle ( Swan Island ) and inaugurated by President Carnot on July 14, 1889, in presence of Victor Thiébaut Junior and Jules Thiébaut. In 1899, Dalou's " The Triumph of the Republic " was created by the Thiébaut Frères Foundry. This set installed in the center of the Place de la Nation. She also melted the Monument of the Republic, Republic Square, now world famous, became the symbol of the union of the French after the attacks against Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015.