Henri Auguste Burdy was a French sculptor and gem engraver. Born in Grenoble in 1833, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and in 1863 was awarded second prize in the Prix de Rome for a medal ‘Bacchus Forcing a Panther to Drink.’
His portrait medals were highly regarded and shown at Salons and exhibitions, as were his busts and statuettes.
Later on, he began to experiment with carving in gemstones and he grew ever more skilled in this area producing carvings for many clients including the jewellery house Boucheron. One of the most notable of these was an emerald lion’s head that the firm went on to set in a gold belt buckle featuring two chased gold panthers. Another important emerald that Burdy carved was that in the form of Julius Caesar which was believed to have been in the collection of Napoleon. The rough emerald weighed over 1000 carats to begin with and the finished piece 225 carats.
But perhaps his most revered gem carving work was the oval two layered cameo he created for Boucheron depicting the charge of the cavalry at Rrischoffen. Measuring just 2.5cm long it was carved with such mastery of skill that, using a magnifying glass, it was possible to read the regiment number on the horse’s saddle. In Henri Vever’s opus ‘French Jewellery of the Nineteenth Century’ he refers to the pieces Burdy carved as “tiny masterpieces”. It is clear from his work that he was a highly skilled and meticulous craftsman, fully able to breathe life into stone and create exceptional works of art.