Bust of the Young Lise in the Guise of Innocence

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828)
Young Lise in the Guise of Innocence, 1775
Marble
18 1/8 in. (46 cm) 
Private Collection

On view April–June 2014

According to popular anecdote, a provincial innocent named Mademoiselle Lise arrived in Paris in 1774 under the naive assumption that husbands, as well as weddings, would be offered to local maidens during a municipal celebration. In this tour-de-force carving, Houdon contrasts the matte texture of Lise’s bountiful hair, bound beneath a wide ribbon, with the smooth, polished surface of her unblemished features, endowing his imaginary portrayal with palpable reality. By adopting the idiom of a classical bust, Houdon transcends the specificity of his subject to personify timeless, youthful innocence.