Neapolitan Fisherboy Playing with a Tortoise
by
François Rude (1784 – 1855)
Marble, 1831-1833 | Louvre, Paris

Rudes great success dates from 1833, when he received the cross of the Legion of Honour for his statue of a Neapolitan Fisher Boy playing with a Tortoise (now in the Louvre), which also procured for him the important commission for all the sculptural frieze ornament and one group on the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris. [Source: Wikipedia]

I felt in love with neoclassical sculputures when I saw this boy in Paris on a school trip. I was 14 and too young (I guess) to get excited about paintings but these plastic boys got my attention immediately. I stood there in front of this boy with mixed feelings… his face, his look was so natural… it was kinda spooky in a good, a wonderful way. On the other hand I felt a bit guilty cause I thought everybody who’s seeing me standing there had to think I’m just looking at his dick xD

This cheerful boy, playing with a tortoise held captive by a reed, caused heated controversy at the Salon of 1833. For the first time, an artist had sculpted a lifesize marble of a picturesque figure, an anecdotal subject. It marked a complete break with classical ideology, whereby genre scenes were considered to be unworthy of statuary art, especially in a medium as noble as marble. Rude’s theme and style also contradicted classical canons. Although reminiscent of antique sculpture, the work was imbued with an unprecedented feeling of freedom and freshness. The boy is naked like the heroes of mythology, but his body is not idealized and his hearty laugh reveals his teeth, a real breach of good taste. The tradition of representing children at play did exist in Hellenistic sculpture, but Rude emphasized the popular, lively aspect of his depiction. The child seated on a net is a young fisher boy, whose bonnet and scapular (the devotional object around his neck) show that he is from Naples. His attitude is carefree and his entire face – crinkled eyes, dimples, open mouth – is laughing.  [Louvre]