Brought to you by the man who also invented the roller skate in the 1780's, this small yet exquisitely carved little marble, fully signed and dated, would look mighty fine on any bookshelf.
Maximiliaan Lodewijk van Lede was born in Bruges in 1759. He studied at the drawing academy and was apprenticed to the sculptor Lodewijk Lessuwe. In 1781, van Lede went to Paris, to study under Joseph Benoît Suvée at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Later on, he joined the workshop of Monot, sculptor to the king, under whose supervision he produced several important marble busts. He also worked for Gonoy, another sculptor to the king and professor at the royal Academy.
Van Lede was awarded second prize by the Academy in 1787 and was given many important commissions. Sadly, he was not able to enjoy his fame for long, as the upheavals of the French Revolution forced him to leave Paris in 1789. However, this was not before inventing the roller skates (!), a feat for which he was cited in the 1790 Almanach de Gotha (an annual directory of Europe’s royalty and nobility, first published in Gotha in 1763).
After briefly going back to Bruges, Van Lede next went to London, where his creations – such as the model for the tomb of Dr. Samuel Johnson, which was placed in St Paul’s – were much admired. The English Sculptor to the King tried to get him to work for him, but to no avail. After securing the support of many important English patrons, van Lede went back to Bruges to enjoy his wealth, continuing to work on various commissions. He died in Bruges in 1834.
The present work, an Allegory of Truth, is dated 1781, indicating that it was most probably one of the very first works van Lede created at the Académie. This is supported by the fact that it is a textbook example of the iconography of truth as described by Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia (first published in 1593), with the open book (with a depiction of the sun and the inscription ‘La vérité’) and the world at the naked truth’s feet. The work clearly shows the influence of the Flemish late baroque, although it has classicist characteristics as well.