Statuette of René Descartes

LL 192


When Lever purchased this statuette in 1904 he believed it depicted Sir Isaac Newton. It actually shows René Descartes (1596 - 1650) a French philosopher, mathematician and scientist. This is a reduction after the statuette erected in 1848 in front of the town hall of La Haye-Descartes (Indre-et-Loire). The version of 1849 erected at Tours in 1852 is now on the west side of the Palace Anatole France, Tours. The orrery (a mechanical model of the Solar System that illustrates or predicts the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons) at the base of the statuette was lost in 1962. The sculptor, Count Alfred Emilien O'Hara van Nieuwerkerke, was a French sculptor of Dutch descent. His artistic career began after a visit to Italy in 1834. Whilst there, he became interested in ancient sculpture, and at the same time befriended a French sculptor called Félicie de Chauveau. Upon his return to France, Nieuwerkerke took some classes in the studios of accomplished sculptors, James Pradier and Carlo Marachetti. He was naturally gifted, taking commissions and exhibiting by 1842. In addition to his sculpture, Nieuwerkerke was known for being an avid collector of antiquities, the bulk of which eventually became part of the Wallace Collection in London.