Bust of François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire by Jean-Antoine Houdon

This Voltaire bust perfectly captures the penetrating wit and intellect of an author who epitomized the spirit of the French Enlightenment.


Details

Medium:
Marble
Dimensions:
49.5 x 25 x 21 cm
Art Fund grant:
£2,000 ( Total: £4,000)
Acquired in:
1948
Vendor:
Sir Francis Oppenheimer

Completed three years after Voltaire's death (1694 - 1778), this marble bust is almost identical to the head of a seated figure of Voltaire also by Houdon, which is now at the Comedie-Francaise. It bears the masks of Comedy and Tragedy at its base and is dedicated to the Marquis de Vilette, presumably intended as a lasting memorial to their friendship. It was the first sculpture by Houdon to be acquired by the V&A and one of the relatively few examples of French eighteenth-century art to have been supported by the Art Fund, showing the relative disinclination of many museums in Britain to increase their holdings in this field.

Provenance

Owned by either 2nd or 3rd Marquise de Villette. Seligmann; Oppenheimer family

Venue details

V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) Cromwell Road, London London SW7 2RL 020 7942 2000 www.vam.ac.uk

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

Daily, 10am – 5.45pm (Fri until 10pm)

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