Chopin Felix factory

The history

Felix Chopin was born on April 21, 1813 in Château-Gontier, in the family of the Parisian bronzer Julien Chopin.
In 1838, Alexander Guerin, a companion of Julien Chopin, invited Felix to Russia, to St. Petersburg, to take the position of managing director of a bronze workshop. Very soon, he launched the production of various bronze objects that were in great demand. The workshop produced candelabras, paperweights, inkwells, candlesticks and clock cases. By the beginning of the 1840s, Guerin’s workshop was evaluated as one of the largest in St. Petersburg. Already in 1841, Felix bought the bronze workshop of Alexander Guerin, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. He expanded the production and eventually reorganized the workshop into a factory. The first period of its development in the 1840-1860s was very favorable for the Russian bronzers, who received large orders from the Imperial Court and the government. In the middle of the decade, Chopin completed a number of foundry works for the Winter Palace interiors, the Grand Kremlin Palace, he casted the gigantic doors for the St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior as well. 
At the All-Russian Manufacturing Exhibition in St. Petersburg (1849), the factory presented an impressive collection (63 items). These were life-size bronze images of Russian princes, tsars and emperors. Along with bronze products, silver and zinc products were also cast at the factory. 
 Trying to adapt to the changing discernment of the Russian nobility and merchants, Chopin introduced patina finished bronze items in the production in the 1850-1860s. Those products suited new coloristic interior solutions. Chopin and his colleagues achieved great effects with the diverse shades of patina finished bronze that imitated various metals, but at the same time, they simultaneously deprived bronze of its distinctive qualities. The statue “North Star”, made for the International Exhibition of 1862 in London, according to the French model, was deservedly considered a typical product new type of bronze, as well as a clock of the same period, with the base and the case upper part, having a special decorative effect due to the combination of dark and light metal tints.
Chopin’s interior bronze was cast mainly in the Neo-rococo style characteristic of elaborated patterns. The most popular in the decoration of clocks, candlesticks, torchieres and other interior items were Putti figurines and ornamental decoration. 
The statue of Catherine II cast according to the drawing of M. Mikeshin won a medal for the exquisite technique at the International London Exhibition in 1862. The best works of the factory demonstrated at different exhibitions glorified the masters in Russia and abroad. The demand for clocks and fireplaces decorations, cast at the Chopin factory was huge. That was due not only to the fact that the French models at that time were very popular, but due to the products highest quality as well. However, in the 1870s the Chopin factory products in the so-called imitative style, was criticized by the excathedral V.V. Stasov. 
In the 1870-1880s, the success of the factory was associated primarily with the name of Eugene Lanceray. Felix Chopin managed to discern a bright personality and wide creative possibilities in the beginning author. Moreover, he did not miscount; the artist’s true to nature sculpture survived the production of Chopin and his successors. At the end of the 1870s, Chopin bought proprietorship for Lanceray sculptures. 17 models purchased at that time are known nowadays. Among them were the following sculptures - “Catching a Wild Horse”, which enchanted V.V. Stasov, “A Cossack Departure”, “A Cossack with a Horse killed under him”, “Return of a Plowman,” “Kyrgyz, hunting with Golden Eagle,” and other works of the sculptor. 
Despite the crisis that erupted in the bronze industry, Chopin continued to cast magnificent works for large exhibitions. In addition to the models of E. Lanceray, he created bronze following the models of A. Aubert, M. Antokolsky, M. Mikeshin, A. Gun and some others. Felix Chopin managed to combine casting of the highest quality models with the French ability to convey texture and select patina finish. Availability of such talent became the main reason why Chopin was considered the best bronzer in Russia in that period. The All-Russian Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1882 summarized the activities of Chopin and conferred him the deserved fame and honor. That year Chopin, being a member of the Trade and Manufactures Council, was awarded with the Order of St. Vladimir of the 3rd grade. 
Chopin invited a representative of the new generation, Charles Bertheau, for 11 years working together with the legendary sculptor Ferdinand Barbedienne to save his factory from closure during the deepening crisis. Chopin retired and left for France. According to some sources, Bertaux performed the duties of the managing director from 1886 to 1888, according to the others - until 1892. Bertaux mainstreamed the export volume of cabinet sculptures cast from the models of Lanceray and other authors, continued working by order, producing both small and large items for the Imperial Court and the Government. He decorated the jasper vase for Emperor Alexander IIII with bronze. Bertaux continued to participate in the exhibitions and by the end of the century received two gold medals and the title of the Supplier of the Court of His Imperial Majesty. His works received medals at The All-Russia industrial and art exhibition 1896 in Nizhny Novgorod and at two Parisian exhibitions - in 1889 and in 1900. At the same time, in order to send the items to the last exhibition, he had to borrow money. Even the title of  the Supplier of the Court of His Imperial Majesty  that he received there, did not add orders and did not swell the ranks of customers and improve the financial situation. Bertaux closed the factory and returned to Paris in 1892.

Exhibits in the Museum Collection