- Museum number
Bust of Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764); soft-paste biscuit porcelain, moulded; the sitter is shown full-face in wig and wearing a neckcloth; his jacket, which has two incised buttonholes on the left and two buttons on the right, is open to display the ruff of the shirt below; the features are carefully modelled and the eyeballs visible in their sockets; fitted to an ormolu stand in the neo-classical style cast in three sections and attached by means of a threaded rod secured underneath by a nut; maker's mark.
- Production date
Height: 20.40 centimetres (including gilt-bronze socle)
- Curator's comments
- Pair with 1988,0701.2
Pair with 1988,0701.2
Associated dates : 1683-1764 (Rameau).
Text from A. Dawson, 'French Porcelain, A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection', 1994 no. 151, pp. 186-188.
Soft paste biscuit porcelain, moulded. The sitter is shown full-face in wig and wearing a neckcloth. His jacket, which has two incised buttonholes on the left and two buttons on the right, carefully incised with a crisscross pattern, is open to display the ruff of the shirt below. The features are carefully modelled and the eyeballs visible in the eye sockets. Small firecracks under left shoulder and on left side of wig. Fitted to an ormulu stand in the neo-classical style cast in three sections (plinth, laurel leaf and berry wreath or or taurus, socle) and attached by means of a threaded rod secured underneath by a nut.
Provenance: Purchased, 1988
Literature: See cat. 150
A. Dawson, 'A little-known bust of Jean-Philippe Rameau in London', Early Music (2016) 44 (4) : pp 515-521, Published 10 March 2017. Abstract: A small Sèvres porcelain bust of Rameau in the British Museum is a new addition ot the 18th-century iconography of the composer. Its genesis and production are discussed, and it revival at the end of the 19th century noted.
Comparable examples: None
The bust was produced as a pendant to Voltaire (see cat. 150). It is based on a marble bust (now lost) by Jean-Jacques Caffiéri (1725-92) engraved by A.de Saint-Aubin in 1762 . The marble apparently perished in a fire at the 'ancienne salle de L'Opéra' at the Palais- Royal, where it was placed by the King after being exhibited at the Salon of 1771. A plaster or terracotta was first shown at the Salon of 1761. A plaster presented by Caffiéri himself in 1787-8 was in the Bibliotèque Sainte-Geneviève in 1921 ; the same plaster was exhibited at the Diderot exhibition in Paris, 1981 .
Diderot commented in the Salon of 1761, 'Le buste de Rameau est frappant. On l'a fait froid, maigre et sec comme il est; et on a très bien attrapé sa finesse affectée et son sourire précieux'. In 1771 the critic wrote of the marble busts of Quinault, Lully and Rameau, 'Ces trois bustes ont vérité admirable et sont d'un ciseau savant; ils renront Caffieri participant de leur immortalité'.
It is not surprising that the Sèvres factory issued the busts of Voltaire and Rameau as a pair: Chabanon thought Rameau more like a ghost than a man and remarked on his resemblance to Voltaire . An engraving of Voltaire and Rameau by G. de Tersan dated 1761 shows them as thin, stooping old men in conversation.  Piron wrote of Rameau, 'Je le voyais venir à l'aide de ma lorgnette. Ce n'etait plus qu'un long tuyau d'orgue en l'absence du souffleur'  He was cruelly portrayed by Diderot in Le Neveu de Rameau, and Collé, who had known him for several decades, wrote of him in his Journal at his death, 'C'etait... le mortel le plus impoli, le plus grossier et le plus insociable de son temps'.  Modern assessments of his keyboard, sacred and dramatic music, and more importantly of his theoretical writings, stress his contributions to the development of harmonic thinking in Western music. D'Alembert rewrote Rameau's Génération harmonique & Démonstration du principe de l'harmonie as the Eléments du musique théorique et practique selon les principes de M. Rameau in 1752, but passed from approval to disapproval of Rameau. In 1745 he was created Compositeur du cabinet du roy; four months before his death he was ennobled. 
The relationship of Caffièri to the royal porcelain factory was traced by Lechevallier- Chevignard in 1908.  According to this writer, the sculptor was responsible for making terracottas of Corneille and Molière for the factory. In 1706 he made a determined effort to replace Falconet as sculpteur attiré when the latter went to Russia. A mémoire dated 16 January 1767 reads '.....Le Sieur Caffièri s'occupe depuis longtemps des ouvrages du genre de la Manuf, et on peut faire voir à Monseigneur des modèles magnifiques d'un service projetté de faire exécuter à la Chine, et dont on a cru devoir empêcher l'envoy. On ne croit pas qu'il y ait rien de plus beau a Seve que les modèlees et dont M peut informer auprès de M. Beaudoin'.
In the hand of Courteille above the mémoire is inscribed Le Roy ne nommera pas encore à cette place. A renewed attempt in November 1767, with the support of Condé is marked La place ne sera pas donnée. Cest Monsieur Bachelier qui continue les fonctions et dirige les sculpteurs.
No record has been found of Caffièri's direct involvement with the creation of this bust, the first example of which was sold to the dealer Poirier for 60 livres at the end of 1768.  It was apparently modelled later than the bust of Voltaire as the mould appears only in the 1769 inventory of the work of 1768 when it was valued at 15 livres, with the models at the same price. An eighteenth-century mould and a plaster model measuring 21.5 cm are preserved at the factory. The inventory of biscuit sculpture stock in January 1770 lists thirty 'Bustes de Voltaire, Rameau &c' at 60 livres each. On the evidence of both the stock lists and sales records, it is doubtful that more were ever made, and by January 1774 the price seems to have been reduced from 60 to 48 livres. The dealers Poirier and Daguerre, Bachelier, Dulac, and Sayde all had examples in 1773, valued at 60 livres, but only four, two, three and one (of Voltaire) respectively. On account of the incised mark, this example is thought to have been made between 1768 and 1773 during the time when Jean-Jacques Bachelier was head of the sculpture workshop.
The ormulu plinth is considered to be of early nineteenth-century date. 
1. Department of Prints and Drawing, BM, reg. no. 1917,12-8.3910 dated 1762 and 1890,4-15.145. The bust was also engraved by C.-P. Landon for his galerie historique des hommes le plus célèbres, Paris, 1805-9. Another portrait of Rameau by Restout engraved by Benoist in the Cabinet des Estampes. Bibliothèque National, Paris, is similar, see L. de la Laurencie, Rameau, Paris, n.d. (1908), opp.p. 9.
2. See A, Boinet, 'Les bustes de Caffièri de la Bibliotheque Sainte-Geneviève', Gazette des Beaux Arts, 5e période, Vol. 111 (1921), pp. 133-46. The Musée de Versailles has a marble copy of the Sainte-Geneviève bust executed in 1838 by J.-P. V. Huguenin, see E. Soulié, Notice des peintures et sculptures composant le Musée Impériale de Versailles, Versailles, 1854, no. 806. Rameau's inventory after his death lists, besides an oil portrait, two engravings and a plaster bust, presumably the Caffièrie portrait, see L. de la Laurencie, 'Quelques documents sur Jean-Phillipe Rameau et sa famille'. Mercure et S.I.M., 15 juin 1907, p. 583. Rameau also owned '6 pièces tant de porcelaine que de terre blanche', which were in his wife's room as was 'un seau de fayance', ibid., pp.583-4.. H. Imbert, 'Un portrait de Rameau', Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) Oeuvres Complètes Tome 11, Paris, repr. New York, 1968, pp. vii-xv, discusses a portrait then thought to be by Chardin; with regard to the Caffièri bust (see pp. ix-xi) he is now known to be incorrect, he omits this Sèvres bust.
3. Paris, 'Diderot & l'Art de Boucher à David, Paris, Hôtel de la Monnaie, October 1984-January 1985, no. 127.
4. Michel-Paul-Gui de Chabanon (1730-92) a violinist, was the author of Eloge sur M. Rameau, published in Paris in 1764. The writer has not seen this work, the quotation is taken from The New Grove, Vol. 15, 1980, p. 572.
5. La Laurancie, 1908, opp. p. 16.
6. Alexis Piron (1689-17730 was, like Rameau, from Dijon; the quotation is taken from The New Grove.
7. The description of his unpleasant personality is quite devastating, see La Laurancie, 1907, pp, 571-2, quoting C. Collé, Journal et Mémoires, Vol. 11, p.375; however, C. Girdlestone in a modern assessment Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work, London, 1917, rev. ed. 1969, gives a more positive view of Rameau's personality.
8. For biographical information on Rameau , see The New Grove, Vol. 11, 1980, pp. 554- 73 and P. Bertier, Réflections sur l'art et la vie de Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Paris, 1957.
9. G. Lechevallier-Chevignard, 'Jean-Jacques Caffièri (1766-1767), Archives de l'Art Française, nouvelle période, Tome 11, 1er fascicule, 1908, pp. 129-33.
10. MNS, Archives de Sèvres, Vy,4, f. 166.
11. The author is grateful to Mratin Chapman for examining the ormolu.
- Not on display
- Small firecracks under left shoulder and on left side of wig.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number