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By Falguière, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph, (French, 1831-1900)
This mythological themed marble sculpture is one of the most famous works of the celebrated late 19th Century French sculptor Alexandre Falguiere.
The marble depicts the Classically inspired full length female figure of Hera, with a peacock next to her, whose tail extends behind her. The group is set on a naturalistic oval shaped base, which bears the signature 'A. Falguière' for Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière.
The subject of the sculpture derives from Greek mythology. It depicts the Goddess of marriage and childbith, Hera (Juno in Roman mythology). Hera's sacred animal is the peacock, as depicted in the current sculpture. The association between Hera and the peacock is explained in two stories.
In Aesop's fables, the peacock asks Hera why it cannot have the nightingale's song, but Hera tells it that this is because it already has the most beautiful tail and feathers; a story about accepting what you already have and not lusting after things you don't, lest you will always be discontent.
The most well-known story however, appears in Ovid's metamorphoses. In this story Juno (the Roman equivalent of Hera), suspects her husband Jupiter (the God of the sky and lightening) of having an affair with a mortal named Io. Jupiter disguises Io by turning her into a cow, but Juno nevertheless still suspects that the cow is Io. Juno asks Jupiter if she can keep the cow as a pet, to which Jupiter has to reluctantly agree, and Juno entrusts Argus, the guard dog with 100 eyes, to keep watch over the cow. Jupiter then has the god Mercury kill Argus and set Io free. Juno is so enraged by the loss of Argus that she takes his 100 eyes and puts them onto the tail of her favourite bird - the peacock - in commemoration of her trusted companion.
The original life-size marble version of this group (height 202cm) by Falguière was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1890 and now stands in the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.
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