- Museum number
- Object: Les Trois Contents
Figure; soft-paste biscuit porcelain; hollow, press-moulded; at the left a kneeling youth with left foot slightly overhanging the oval base; clumps of plants around; with his right hand he holds the outstretched right hand of the central seated figure of a young girl; she is looking at the seated figure of a man on her left who holds her left arm and kisses her hand; he wears a shirt tied at the waist under a jacket with pockets and breeches tied at the knee; the girl wears a low-cut long robe under a long overdress with full half-sleeves, her hair elaborately dressed; the youth wears a broad-brimmed hat, a shirt with full sleeves, jacket and breeches; maker's mark.
- Production date
1765-1773 (made circa)
Height: 21.40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Dawson 1994
Modelled by Etienne-Maurice Falconet in 1765 and probably inspired by La Fontaine's ‘conte, L,es deux amis’ which was used by the playwright Taconet as the theme for ‘Les Rivaux heureux ou les Caprices d'Amour’, first performed in 1763. An eighteenth-century plaster mould comprising fourteen pieces is preserved at the factory, where there is also a plaster model.¹
The sculptor Leclere received 36 livres “avoir remonté la terre du groupe des trois contents” in October 1765² and Le Riche completed two groups at 72 livres each in the same month. Other sculptors worked on the group, for example, Levaux, Mignon and Mathias in 1765 (and 1767), 1766 and 1767 respectively. An example of the group was sold to the duc de Choiseul in December 1765 for 240 livres.³ The high price reflects the work required, which has been estimated at 4,440 hours for current production. On account of the incised mark, the Museum group is thought to have been made between 1766-73, during the period when Jean-Jacques Bachelier was head of the sculpture workshop.⁴
Although this example was not made under the direct supervision of Falconet, it nonetheless exhibits his technical skill. The placing of the figures in relation to each other to give them balance and symmetry, their liveliness and movement, the particular attention paid to the modelling of the faces and, most of all, the unusual (not to say daring) poses make this group the work of a master. When viewed from the back - it is designed to be seen 'in the round' - the almost outrageous naturalness of the positioning of the limbs is striking.
1. Bourgeois, Emile, ‘Le Biscuit de Sèvres au XVIIIe Siècle’, Paris, 1909, Vol. 2, fig. 24, where it is said to be after Boucher. However, no evidence has been found for this statement, and no print or drawing has yet been identified as the source of the porcelain group. The writer is grateful to Tamara Préaud for information about the number of pieces making up this mould.
2. MNS, Archives de Sèvres, F8, ‘Travaux extraordinaires’.
3. MNS, Archives de Sèvres, Vy 4, f. 57V.
4. For a detailed biography of Jean-Jacques Bachelier (1724-1806), who worked as a painter and then as artistic director at Vincennes and Sèvres from 1748/51 until 1793, see Savill, Rosalind, ‘The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London’, London, 1988, III, pp. 961-4; further details of his career as a flower, fruit and still-life artist, with illustrations of his work, can be found in M. and F. Faré, ‘La vie silencieuse en France, La Nature Morte au XVIIIe siècle’, Fribourg, 1976, pp. 254-68, and a bust portrait of him by J.-B.-S. Chardin dated 1773 is illus. p. 255, fig. 402. Tamara Préaud informed the writer in correspondence of September 1991 that production of the group appears to have ceased after 1786 until it was reissued late in the twentieth century.
1) Sèvres, Musée national de Céramique, inv. 20 050;15 391.
2) Paris, G. Lefebvre, exhibition, International Ceramic Fair and Seminar Ltd., London, June 1987, mounted on ormolu base.
3) Exhibition, ‘La porcelaine française de 1673 à 1914, la porcelaine contemoraine de Limoges’, Pavillon de Marsan, Paris, November-December 1929, no. 841.
4) Germany, Munich, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, illus. R. Schmidt, ‘Porcelain as an Art and a Mirror of Fashion’, London, 1932, fig. 201, cursive ‘B’ incised, inv. Ker 4016; F.H. Hofmann, ‘Das Europaïsche Porzellan de Bayer. Nationalmuseums’, Munich, 1908, no. 1126.
5) USA, New York, private collection, mounted on ormolu base, illus, exhibition catalogue, ‘François Boucher, his Circle and Influence’, New York, Stair Sainty Mathiesen, September-November, 1987, no. 75.
Literature: King, 1951-2, p. 80; Charles, Rollo, ‘Continental Porcelain of the Eighteenth Century’, London, 1964, pl. 54; Wilfred J. Sainsbury, Sèvres Soft-Paste Biscuit Porcelain Part II, ‘Apollo’, Vol. LI, no. 304, June 1950, p. 168.
- On display (G46/dc17)
- Man's hat chipped and his right wrist repaired.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number