Titled Satan when first exhibited in plaster at the Salon of 1834 and cast in bronze the following year, it proved an influential work for its Romantic portrayal of Mephistopheles as a melancholic and contemplative rather than monstrous. The subject’s pose is inspired by the famous engraving of Melancholy by Dürer (Feuchère is known to have owned a copy) and in turn is thought to have influenced Rodin’s Thinker.
A number of reductions were cast in bronze measuring 13½in (34cm) and 10½in (21cm), some with the foundry inscription E. de Labroue. Gautier et Cie. The artist also produced an enlarged and reworked version in 1850 known in a few casts – one is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
However, this plaster model, standing 15in (38cm) high, was signed and dated to the base J Feuchère 1838 and was inset with a small oval cast bronze plaque with the monogram JF. Clearly it was a lot closer to the artist than the estimate of £200-300 suggested.
Despite some condition issues (the front fins to the wings were missing), it was bought on the phone by a French collector at £6800. Christie’s sold a bronze cast of Mephistopheles in November 2017 for £15,000.