An exhibition of two remarkable portraits of famous men lent by the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia: an oil on canvas representing Benjamin Franklin painted by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in 1777, and a marble bust of Nicolas de Condorcet executed by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1785. Also on view was a small group of letters, manuscripts, and eighteenth-century publications relating to the history of the two portraits and the relations between the American statesman and the mathematician, philosopher, and revolutionary.
Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828) and Claude Michel, called Clodion (1738–1814), were two of the foremost sculptors in France during the late eighteenth century, and the Frick housed an important group of their works. In 1915 founder Henry Clay Frick acquired Clodion’s terracotta Zephyrus and Flora and, the following year, Houdon’s marble bust of the Comtesse du Cayla. Other works that were subsequently added to the collection were shown together for the first time, highlighting the artists’ expressive ranges, as well as their defining contributions to the sculpture of Enlightenment-era France. MORE »
In this week’s episode of Cocktails with a Curator, Assistant Curator Giulio Dalvit examines the beguiling marble bust of The Comtesse du Cayla by Jean-Antoine Houdon. This beautifully intimate portrait showcases the artist’s virtuoso rendering of surfaces and volumes—it is almost impossible to imagine that the grapevine-girdled Comtesse began as a single block of marble. This week’s complementary cocktail, the Frosé, evokes summers in the south of France, where her family owned vast estates.
Houdon and Clodion are among the greatest French sculptors of the late eighteenth century, as well as the creators of works featured in the Frick's special exhibition Enlightenment and Beauty. As students in Rome in the 1760s, both were schooled in Greek and Roman culture and studied vast collections of antiquities. Yet what they absorbed from their training and the paths they chose to follow were quite different. This lecture explores the sculptors' respective sources of inspiration and patronage. This lecture is made possible by the Robert H.
Anne L. Poulet, Director Emerita of The Frick Collection, introduces the current exhibition Enlightenment and Beauty: Sculptures by Houdon and Clodion, on view at the Frick until April 5, 2015. This video will be on view in the Music Room at the Frick during the run of the exhibition.