Jacques Saly

Jacques Saly bigraphy, stories - Danish sculptor

Jacques Saly : biography

20 June 1717 – 4 May 1776

Jacques François Joseph Saly, also known as Jacques Saly (20 June 1717 – 4 May 1776), French-born sculptor who worked in France, Denmark, and Italy, was born in Valenciennes to François Marie Saly and his wife Marie Michelle.


Training as a sculptor and early career

He began his training as a sculptor at nine years of age under local master Antoine Gilles in Valenciennes from 1726-1727. In spite of his parents’ meager income, he was sent to Paris in 1732 to train in the studio of the leading sculptor at Paris, Guillaume Coustou. At the same time he attended the school of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, winning medals in 1734, 1737 and 1738.

Winning that last medal, first place in the Prix de Rome competition, gave him the right to study at the French Academy at Rome, at the time the single mainstream route to a successful official career as a sculptor in Paris. He first received his stipend in 1740, and he arrived in Rome on 13 October 1740. He stayed there for eight years between 1740–1748, and lived at the Academy. The goal here was that through the study of antiquities and the masters of the past, one would develop and refine one’s artistic taste. More practically it meant making marble copies of Roman sculpture for the French king.

In 1742 he made a monumental portrait bust of Manuel Pinto de Fonseca, Grand Master of the Order of Malta. In 1744 he made a bust of a little girl which is one of the most reproduced sculptures from the 18th century.

He became one of the first French members of the Accademia degli Arcadi in Rome 1744, and of the Academy of Design at Florence, in 1748, and of the accademia di belli arti, Bologna.

He had close relations with Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Return to Paris

He traveled back to his home via Naples, Florence and Bologna, and arrived back in Valenciennes in the beginning of March 1749. The works he had sent home had received such positive attention that his hometown commissioned a full standing portrait of King Louis XV from him. The marble statue was erected in 1752, and destroyed in 1792. A plaster bust of Louis XV was also made that same year.

He went on to Paris, where he became a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1751 with his work "A Fawn with a Kid". He was assistant professor at the Académie 1751-1753. He exhibited at the Paris Salons, 1750-1751 and 1753.

He created a plaster bust of Madame de Pompadour in 1752, and a statue of Amor for her the next year.

Jacque Saly’s monumental sculpture of [[Frederik V on Horseback at Amalienborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark.]]

Summons to Denmark

In 1752 Saly was commissioned to create a sculpture of King Frederick V of Denmark on horseback to be placed in the center of the courtyard of Amalienborg Palace. The equestrian statue was commissioned by Adam Gottlob Moltke, head of the Danish Asiatic Company, as a gift to the king. But while Moltke’s company offered to finance the statue, it was the government, however, who chose the sculptor. Count Johan Hartvig Ernst Bernstorff wrote to the Danish Legation secretary to the French Court in Paris Justitsråd Joachim Wasserschlebe to find a suitable French sculptor.

Sculptor Edmé Bouchardon rejected the offer, but suggested Saly, who wanted a significant sum for the model and free housing in Copenhagen. The government concluded the contract with Saly in Spring 1752, but due to conflict with ongoing projects Saly did not arrive in Denmark until 8 October 1753, bringing with him his parents, his two sisters and at least one assistant, Journée, along with his family.

Work began on the monument that same year.

In Copenhagen: The Academy

During the same period of time the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) was officially established with offices at Charlottenborg, on Frederik V’s birthday, 31 March 1754. Saly gave the main speech at the event, a snub to the current Academy Director architect Nicolai Eigtved. Saly was made member of the Academy; was named professor, and received a residence at Charlottenborg. Several months later after Eigtved died suddenly on 7 July 1754, Saly was named Eigtved’s successor; he served as Director of the Academy from 25 July 1754 to 15 July 1771, and he was given a lifelong yearly pension in 1760.