« The Castanet Player »      by Jef Lambeaux



Impressive in size, measuring no less than 123 cm in height, and Impressive sculpture of an elegant castanet player by the Belgian artist Jef Lambeaux.


This exceptionally large work, carved from high quality marble, perfectly reflects the genius of Jef Lambeaux. The subject of the ‘Joueuse de Castagnettes’ is also addressed by the artist in another bronze sculpture. This is a typical creation of Lambeaux who likes to invent scenes of seductive and tempting young women in a spirit of jubilation and provocative truculence.  

These odes to quivering flesh, which Lambeaux elevated to an ideal of pure creation, often provoked the wrath of conservative audiences but delighted enthusiasts. Lagey wrote of the laughing freshness expressed in many of Lambeaux’s sculptures, ‘it is a poem of the flesh that he celebrates in each of his statuary stanzas, bubbling with intense life’.

Jef Lambeaux ( Anvers, 1852 – 1908, Bruxelles)

Jozef Maria Thomas Lambeaux was born in Antwerp on 14 January 1852 to a Walloon father and a Flemish mother. He excelled in drawing at a very young age and began his education under the auspices of the crafts. In turn, he worked for a ship’s bow maker, then for a cabinetmaker and finally for a stonecutter. 

He entered the Antwerp Academy in 1861, where he deliberately focused on the study of sculpture and anatomy in the middle years. He failed the final test for the Prix de Rome in 1873, even though he was ranked first in the preparatory competition. The theme of this test would have left the artist perplexed by the historical part of the content. Indeed, Jef Lambeaux had no primary education and even less classical studies, but this did not prevent him from showing an interest in a culture that he had missed. In 1883, Jef Lambeaux was a founding member of the Brussels avant-garde group Les Vingt.


His work includes Le Faune mordu shown at the Brussels (1897) and Paris (1900) World Fairs, but was the focus of a nude controversy at the 1905 World Fair in Liege, where the work was covered with a veil. Another major work is Les Passions humaines (1886), a marble bas-relief that was incorporated into Victor Horta’s pavilion in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, for which he was awarded a medal of honour at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris. 

He was appointed a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium in 1903. Since 1899, the relief of the Passions has been the subject of both praise and criticism.


– Georges Van der Straeten

– Jean Gaspar

He regularly led a group of young painters and sculptors in Saint-Gilles (Brussels).

Article in La Libre, 29-08-2008: « We almost forgot the hundred years of his death! Yet Jef Lambeaux (1852-1908) was a great sculptor and a very romantic personality. During his lifetime he received twenty monumental commissions for public spaces: the statue of Brabo in Antwerp, the Pavilion of Human Passions at the Cinquantenaire in a building by Horta, two sculptures in the Sablon, etc. His fame was equal to the ‘scandal’ that he spread with pleasure. His neo-baroque sculptures, full of sensuality and flesh, in the vein of Rubens and Jordaens, earned him the attacks of the self-righteous and the Catholic milieu. The fate of the phenomenal Human Passions, our Taj Mahal, has remained famous. It was a public commission and the state, proud of the result, made a plaster duplicate that was exhibited in a number of world exhibitions (this duplicate is in the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts, which is announcing a Jef Lambeaux exhibition in 2010).

But these overly erotic passions did not please the ‘tight asses’. Jean Delville called Lambeaux ‘the Michelangelo of the brook’ and explains that he ‘gagged at the sight of a group of fat, nauseating back-alley hetaïres’. We know what happened next. The pavilion was closed until recently. The most piquant thing was when King Baudouin offered a piece of the Cinquantenaire Park to build a mosque and the clerics discovered with horror the healthy sensuality of these bacchantes.

Jef Lambeaux had other setbacks. The Nymph of Bocq, which now stands in front of the Town Hall in Saint-Gilles, remained in its cellars until 1976 because of 19th century « good spirits » who considered it too indecent. The Bite Fauna in the Parc de la Boverie in Liège was once again a scandal, initially rejected by the vicar Schoolmeesters, who considered the naked and embracing couple biting each other to be scandalous. The work was sent back and broke on the way. The State nevertheless had another copy made.

The thirty or so bronzes and plaster casts exhibited at the Hôtel de Ville de Saint-Gilles show the eclecticism and power of Jef Lambeaux. Inspired by Rodin, he announced Maillol, Rik Wouters and Bourdelle. Baroque and romantic, he is already an expressionist. He also likes to sculpt himself as a cursed artist, which he was not.

Jef Lambeaux, born of a Walloon father and a Flemish mother (he wrote phonetically in both languages!), was very Belgian in his sense of mixing and blending influences to recreate a world in the style of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Dionysian joys. Jef Lambeaux became famous, stirred up controversy, and had the intelligence to sell his works in reduced size to the bourgeoisie. He was very Belgian, almost surrealist, already a little Delvoye or Fabre. Saint-Gilles had promised him a museum if he left enough works. But these had disappeared from a neighbour’s house and were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. However, the Hôtel de Ville kept some plaster casts and bronzes in its cellars.

Works in the public space:

  • The Kiss 1881 – Royal Museum of Fine Arts – Antwerp
  • Silvius Brabo Fountain – 1887 – Antwerp
  • Bust of General Albert Goblet d’Alviella 1887 – Court-Saint-Étienne
  • Le Dénicheur d’aigle ca. 1890, Royal Museum of Ancient Art in Brussels
  • Prometheus in chains 1896 – Zoological garden – Antwerp
  • The bitten faun 1897 – Brussels World Exhibition
  • Homage to Darwin 1898 – Zoological garden – Antwerp
  • The Mad Song 1898 – Brussels
  • The Bitten Faun 1900 – Paris World Fair
  • The Goddess of Bocq – 1900 – Saint-Gilles Town Hall
  • The Spring – 1901 – Mariemont Park – Morlanwelz
  • The Triumph of the Woman – 1901 – Mariemont Park – Morlanwelz
  • The Abundance – 1902 – Mariemont Park – Morlanwelz
  • The bitten faun – 1903 – Liège exhibition
  • Monument to the combatants – 1830 – 1905 – Tienen
  • The eagle hunter – 1925 – Parc du Château – Enghien
  • Galileo in white marble – gardens of the Provincial School of Horticulture in La Hulpe
  • Pavillon des Passions humaines, 1899, is one of Victor Horta’s earliest buildings, specially constructed in 1899 in a classical style to house Jef Lambeaux’s monumental high relief Les Passions humaines, which evokes the pleasures and misfortunes of humanity. Three days after the opening, the work, which was daring for its time and depicts embracing bodies, provoked a real moral scandal. The open pavilion behind the façade columns was walled up and closed with a metal door

Today it is open on certain dates and is part of the Royal Museums of Art and History.

  • Dimensions : 102 x 50 x 23 cm
  • White Carrara marble sculpture.
  • End of 19th century.
  • BENEZIT E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs. Nouvelle édition. Librairie Gründ, 1976. 10 volumes, Tome6 p399.
  • PIRON Paul. Dictionnaire des artistes plasticiens de Belgique des XIXe et XXe siècles. Editions Art in Belgium, Ohain-Lasne, 2003, 2 volumes, Tome2 p16.
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