Christening Cups

Presented here are the lively and rapid preliminary wax sketch and the patinated plaster and bronze casts of the finished work, as remodeled in 1854. As an ostensibly decorative object, this cup is unique in David's oeuvre. First modeled on the occasion of his son's baptism, its shallow, almost primitive relief depicts four stages of childhood. Beginning with breastfeeding, the iconography progresses through the child's discovery of self-sustenance by feeding himself grapes, his assumption of literacy skills, and concludes with the offer of a sword and book from his civic mother, patria. The composition blurs the boundary between private and public life, showing not only the intimate relationship of children and their families but also the process of obtaining citizenship, of joining the national family.

  • brown wood, wax, and graphite cup with carved image of mother and child

    Christening Cup, 1835
    Wood, wax, and graphite
    18.9 cm high
    Collection Pierre Bergé

    Cat. 11

  • plaster cup with carved images of roses and a mother suckling a child

    Christening Cup (after an 1835 model)
    Patinated plaster
    18.9 cm high
    Signed and dated, 1854; inscribed, patria
    Collection Roberta J. M. Olson and Alexander B. V. Johnson

    Cat. 16

  • sculpted bronze cup with cast images of palm trees, woman, and child

    Christening Cup (after an 1835 model)
    Bronze
    18.3cm high
    Signed and dated, 1854; inscribed, patria
    Collection Pierre Bergé

    Cat. 37

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