A very lovely French Art Nouveau bronze bust by Emmanuel Villanis c1890. Bust of a young woman with downcast melancholic eyes. Fine rich brown and verdigris patination, and with exceptional hand chased surface detail. Titled to the fore. Signed E Villanis and with embossed foundry mark for Bronze Garanti au titre Paris. Raised on a black marble stepped rectangular base. The bronze measures 29 cm overall. Base is 11.5 cm width and 11.5 cm depth. This bronze titled “Nelly” perhaps named after Nellie Farren (a famous burlesque actress who toured internationally) or perhaps Nelly Dean (the principal narrator in Wuthering Heights).
Emmanuel Villanis (1858-1914) was born in Lille, France to Italian parents. The family moved to Piedmont after the unification of Italy in 1861. Villanis attended the Accademia Albertina in Turin from 1871 to 1880 under master sculptor Odoardo Tabacchi. He exhibited his first works in cities across Italy, notably his bust ‘Alda’ in Milan in 1881. From 1885 to his death in 1914, Villanis lived and worked in Paris - becoming one of the most prolific and popular Sculptors of the late 19th Century. He specialised in female bronze busts often based on leading dancers and actresses or on characters from literature and mythology. Produced in different sizes and finished to an extremely high standard, these were cast by the Society des Bronzes de Paris, Bronze Garanti au titre Paris, Vrai Bronze Garanti Paris, E Blot Paris Vrai Bronze or KK Kunst-Erzgiesserei Wien. Villanis’ pieces were usually prominently titled, and commonly featured varying patination or texture used to enhance the beauty of the piece. Villanis’ regularly exhibited at the Salon des Artistes in Paris – receiving an Honourable Mention in 1892. His bronzes were exported around the world and he enjoyed international acclaim for his work. Today he is recognised as one of the foremost sculptors of the Art Nouveau era and is his work is highly sought after by collectors.