Auguste Clésinger: Woman bitten by a snake (Femme piquée par un serpent)
The marble sculpture ‘Femme piquée par un serpent’ (Woman bitten by a serpent) by the French sculptor and painter Auguste Clésinger (1814-1883) commissioned by Alfred Mosselman, was the subject of a sensational scandal at the Salon of Painting and Sculpture in 1847. The sculpture was scandalized because Clésinger produced the sculpture from the life-casts of his model Apollonie Sabatier.
Apollonie Sabatier (1822-1889) was a French courtesan, an artists’ muse and bohemian in Paris, where she hosted a salon. At her salon, she met and befriended several French artists of her times. She was one of the women who inspired the work Les Fleurs du Mal written by Charles Baudelaire. Sabatier was also the alleged mistress of Baudelaire.
The French painter and watercolorist Vincent Vidal (1811-1887) had painted her portrait. She is also featured along with the Belgian tycoon Alfred Mosselman, who was her lover, in Gustave Courbet’s painting L’Atelier du peintre. After Mosselman’s death, she became the mistress of the English art collector and philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace who is famous for installing the Wallace Fountains in Paris, which were source of clean drinking water for Parisians, and even now prominent landmarks of the city of Paris.