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Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
The Cupid Seller (La marchande d’amours), c. 1765–70
Marble
10 7/8 x 11 3/4 in. (27.6 x 29.8 cm)
Private Collection

Clodion uses the purity and permanence of marble to portray with calm dignity this playful scene of the vending of love. The relief underscores the appeal of the Cupid Seller subject in the late eighteenth century since it may be a commission after the earlier terracotta by Clodion at left. Celebrated for his mastery of modeling in clay, the artist here demonstrates his equally refined technique in marble, as seen in his sensitive articulation of the folds of the female figures’ garments and of the minute feathers of the cupids’ wings.

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
The Cupid Seller (La marchande d’amours), c. 1765–70
Terracotta
8 3/4 x 10 7/8 in. (22.2 x 27.6 cm)
Anonymous Loan

Grasping the wings of an eagerly gesturing cupid, a seated vendor proffers love to a buyer flanked by an attendant. Clodion’s highly classicized composition, created during his formative years at the French Academy in Rome, presents a charming interpretation of a renowned ancient wall painting discovered near Pompeii and known through prints. Raised modeling emphasizes the female figures’ profiles and drapery, and delicate incising captures the illusion of their gracefully contoured limbs receding into space.

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
Pair of Vases with Bacchic Subjects, c. 1770–75
Terracotta
10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Private Collection

On view April–September 2014

Clodion evokes the visual language of classical triumphal processions in these relief vases modeled during or shortly after his time in Italy. Reclining in mirroring poses on chariots pulled by teams of putti are Silenus, the drunken companion of Bacchus, and a female Satyr, whose furry legs identify her as half goat. The small-scale works emulate the form of the monumental marble Medici Vase, an esteemed antiquity in Rome. Clodion’s depictions of Bacchic revelry in warm-hued terracotta invigorate the classical vase format and subject for the delight of learned eighteenth-century audiences.

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
Three Graces, early 1770s
Terracotta
20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm)
Private Collection

This early work intended to support a marble basin exemplifies Clodion’s imaginative approach to the Greek and Roman precedents he studied in Italy. He interprets the Three Graces — guardians of life’s pleasures — as caryatids (female figures serving as architectural pillars). The artist embellishes upon the traditional single-figure caryatid by encircling the Graces, who link hands in accordance with custom, around a central column. Subtle variations in the figures’ poses, coiffures, and classical costumes enliven the rhythm of the composition, lending it a contemporary, naturalistic spirit.

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
Allegories of Day and Night, c. 1780–90
Terracotta
6 3/4 in. (17.3 cm)
Private Collection

On view October 2014–April 2015

In this pair of works from his mature period in Paris, Clodion animates the classical bust format with the expressive naturalism characteristic of late eighteenth-century French sculpture. Personified as a young girl with lush curls and placid features, Day embodies the bounty, warmth, and promise of the sunlit hours in her carefree dishabille. Her foil, Night, lifts her gaze toward the celestial bodies in the heavens, shielding herself from the cool evening air with a stole adorned with moons and stars. These intimately scaled, deftly modeled terracottas likely complemented a fashionable interior ensemble.

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727–1802)
The Dance of Time: Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock, 1788
Terracotta, gilt brass, glass
40 3/4 in. (103.5 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York; Purchased through the Bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey

On view in the Portico Gallery July 2014–April 2015

Clodion’s base for a glass-enclosed clock by the renowned horologist Lepaute provides a daring variation on the theme of animated caryatids (female figures providing architectural support) that he explored nearly two decades earlier in his Three Graces. With outstretched limbs, the nymphs flout their role as buttresses for the pillar they surround. The circular momentum of their joyous dance, suggested by their billowing draperies, proceeds in unison with the rhythm of the clock’s pendulum and the horizontal rotation of its dial. Together, Clodion’s figures and Lepaute’s timepiece epitomize the beauty, modernity, and classicism that defined the art of the Enlightenment.

Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814)
Zephyrus and Flora, 1799
Terracotta
20 3/4 in. (52.7 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York; Henry Clay Frick Bequest

Clodion demonstrates his mastery of the small-scale terracotta statuette in this joyful representation of the god of the west wind, a herald of spring, tenderly embracing the goddess of flowers as he crowns her with a wreath of roses. Identifying attributes — from Zephyrus’s breeze-blown drapery to the putti scattering flowers near Flora — enhance the spiraling energy of the composition. Although Clodion draws his subject from the antique, the figure group possesses the weightless elegance characteristic of his late style.