- Museum number
Figure of Louis XV (reigned 1715-74) as a warrior; soft-paste biscuit porcelain; full-length figure on a circular base wearing a laurel crown, his right arm outstretched, his left hand resting on his sword pommel; he is dressed in a cuirass with pteryges and a long cloak which falls to the ground at the back; his sandals are fastened with leather thongs around the shins; to his left is a truncated fluted column resting on a plinth; maker's mark.
- Production date
- 1770-1773 (circa)
Height: 24.60 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The genesis of this figure at Sèvres has been discussed by Pierre Ennès ('le surtout de marriage en porcelaine de Sèvres du Dauphin, 1769-1770', Revue de l'Art, 1987, pp.63-73). It was traditionally assumed to have been based on a reduction of a bronze statue by Jean Baptiste Pigalle (1715-85), which formed part of a monument in the Place Royale, Reims, inaugurated on 26 August 1765. (J-R, Gaborit, 'Jean-Baptiste Pigalle 1714-1785', Sculptures du Musée du Louvre, Paris 1985, pp.12-14). Pigalle was obviously proud of this monument since it appears in the background of a pastel portrait of the sculptor by M-S Roslin exhibited in the 1771 Salon (Musée du Louvre, 1985, p. 151, fig. 85b). A note in the Sèvres archives records a terracotta was supplied to the factory in 1770 by the sculptor who paid 600 livres (MNS, Archives de Sèvres, I 8, inventory of 1 January 1771) [the author of this entry has not specified whether the sculptor is named as Pigalle]. In fact, a small terracotta bust in a private collection executed by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (1704–78) appears to be the prototype for the porcelain sculpture. The terracotta modello (10.2 cm) is signed ‘Lemoine’ (an alternative contemporary spelling), presumably to ‘ensure that no one else stole the credit for it’, as suggested by Alastair Laing (formerly Curator of Pictures and Sculpture at the National Trust, who correspondended with the owners on 9 June 2011).
The porcelain figure was destined for an extensive table-centre in biscuit porcelain, specially designed for a dinner given on 16 May 1770 in the Opera House in Versailles to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin (the future King Louis XV1) and Marie-Antoinette. The table-centre, which has not survived, has been reconstructed by Pierre Ennès. It consisted of a collonade, figures of children symbolising The Seasons, groups of children beside a column, fountains supported by figures of Atlas (probably based on the fountain by Piranesi in the Villa Albani), several fountains supported by the Three Graces and a series of figures of classical deities. The complete table-decoration cost 11,884 livres (Roth ed., 1987, p. 182).
Several sculptors are recorded as having worked on the production of figures of Louis XV, including Perrotin, Mignan, Le Vaux and Mathias (Musée du Louivre, 1985,p.149) This example was made under the supervision of Jean-Jacques Bachelier (1724-1806), who was head of the sculpture workshop between 1766 and 1773. It is his mark which is found on this piece.
There has been some discussion as to whether more than one size of figure was made (Musée du Louvre, 1985, pp.149-50).Comparing the measurements of the Wadsworth Atheneum (H.20.5 cm) and British Museum examples, it does indeed appear that this was so. This would explain the entry in the Stock List of January 1774, discovered by Ennès, which refers to 'one large figure of the King and its base'. and the differences in the prices charged. The figure cost 72 livres without base in 1770, but in 1778 it was priced at 96 livres (Musèe du Louvre, 1885, p. 149). Comparison of photographs of the known examples reveals minor differences of detail: the Chavagnac figure has leather fringing under the left arm, for instance, and the sword pommel on the Louvre example differs, possibly because it has been restored.
A somewhat crudely modelled standing figure of Louis XV in the guise of a warrior but without the laurel wreath and the column, standing by a plumed helmet on top of a globe adorned with fleurs-de-lys in relief was illustrated by Darblay (Darblay, 1901, pl. XXXVII) and has been reproduced by Duchon (Duchon, 1988, p. 73). Its present whereabouts are unknown, and no others have been discovered. It was presumably made at Mennecy in imitation of the Sèvres model. A glazed and painted Niderviller example is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Munger et al., 1992, no. 1882). An even more rustic Louis XV was made in tin-glazed earthenware at Lunèville (Exh. Nancy and Atlanta, 1990, no. 126, tin-glazed earthenware painted in colours, H. 28.6 cm).
For comparable examples in the Louvre, Paris, Musèe national de Cèramique, Sèvres, Wadsworth Museum, Hartford, Connecticut, Chavagnac Collection sale, Hòtel Drouot, 19-21 june 1911, Lot 283. see printed version.
- On display (G46/dc18)
- Sword pommel restored; right arm restored from the original mould at the factory (according to the vendors).
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number