A sculpture similar to that of Rheinhold was brought to my attention by an Australian visitor to this site (May 24, 2008). The sculpture is signed "MENE," which raises the possibility that this sculpture was created by the French animalier artist Pierre-Jules MÍne (1810-1879). If this was the case, then Hugo Rheinhold cannot be credited with the original idea for the "philosophizing ape" sculpture.
Even before consulting the pertinent literature, I had serious doubt that that this sculpture was created by Pierre-Jules MÍne: Without apparent reason, a horizontal line runs across the right page of the open book. This suggests that the sculptor copied this feature from Rheinholdís sculpture (created in 1892), in which this line also exists, but where it serves a purpose: Most likely, it is a tear line; the lower part of the page (and with it the second part of the Latin quote from Genesis) was deliberately torn off. What remains on Rheinholdís sculpture is the first part of the quote ďEritis sicut deusĒ (You shall be like God); the second part ďscientes bonum et malumĒ (knowing good and evil) is missing. Without any text on this page (in case of the "MENE" bronze), the horizontal line serves no purpose. If the creator of the "MENE" sculpture had come up with the idea for the piece himself or herself, he or she would not have added the tear line without any text. (For the interpretation of the horizontal line as a tear line see Richter and Schmetzke, 2005, 2007.)
After consulting the following three publications, my initial impression regarding the originality (or lack thereof) of the "MENE" sculpture was confirmed.
Poletti, Michel and Richarme, Alain. Pierre-Jules MÍne 1810-1879. Catalogue raisonnť. Paris: Univers du Bronze, 2007. [238 pages].
Horswell, Jane. Bronze Sculpture of "Les Animaliers". Reference and Price Guide. Clopton, Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Antique Collectors' Club, 1971; esp. pages 103-173.
Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc. A Collection of Isidore and Rosa Bonheur, Pierre-Jules MÍne and other Animalier Bronzes. From the Collection of the Late Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge. (Public Auction, Dec. 4, 1975). New York: Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc, 1975; esp. items 38-112.
It is very unlikely that this sculpture was created by Pierre-Jules MÍne. Prolific as the artist was, there is no indication that he ever created any kind of monkey or ape bronze. Furthermore, the artist's signature on the "MENE" bronze poorly matches the 15 signature examples provided by Poletti and Richarme (pp. 220-225). All of these signatures, which cover a 40-year time span (1835-1876), include MÍne's first-name initials P.J. (rendered as "P.J." or "PJ"). With two exceptions, the signatures include the accent (circonflexe)--located over the first "E".
Also, as one reader of this page pointed out, MÍne's animal sculptures are realistic depictions, which lack the symbolic/metaphorical dimension of Rheinhold's philosophizing ape.
Despite the above conclusion, I shall keep an open mind. Please contact me if you (honorable reader) have additional information about the possible origin of the "MENE sculpture.".
Description: height 379 mm, width 190 mm, and depth 180 mm; weight 10 kg. Book color: brown with book edges in gold leaf. The engraving on the base (back, right side) reads "MENE" (with an apostrophe, or accent, following the final "E"). The owner reports "what seems to be either a number 5 or letter o / G on the back of the base topside up." The sculpture was purchased by the current owner at Portobello Market in London.
Viewed from above
Source: All photos courtesy of Alex Hayes, United Kingdom.
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Axel Schmetzke, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI 54481