The 17th century
Marc Arcis remains the most interesting sculptor of this period. Born in 1652 in the Tarn, taught by Rivalz, the great painter of the Toulousan 17th century, he then left for Versailles to perfect his art before returning to pursue his career here in his own region.
As Painter to the Capitouls (governors of Toulouse) and site manager for the galleries of the town hall, Rivalz was able to introduce his pupil to his patrons very young. As early as 1674, Arcis received an order for thirty busts of eminent Toulousan figures to adorn the gallery of the same name (‘galerie des illustres' or ‘gallery of the eminent') in the Capitole (town hall). Despite his youth (he was 22) he had just completed what remains one of his masterpieces: the bust of Louis XIV. Although Arcis is the only name quoted in the archives, he had help from other contemporary sculptors.
Travellers have often marvelled at the sumptuous carved decor in the Toulousan churches of the 17th and 18th centuries. Although many decors have disappeared, those that remain confirm the quality of Toulouse as an artistic centre. The themes are mainly religious as Toulouse was one of the strongholds of a militant Counter-Reformation and the city welcomed many members of the clergy chased out of neighbouring regions which had fallen to the Reformation. The sculptures from this period are spread between the church, the small cloister for the architectural fragments and the first floor for small busts and sculptures.
The use of terracotta was a constant feature of this period. Often painted with a whitewash to imitate marble, clay was cheaper and easier to work with.