Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828)
Armand-Thomas Hue, Marquis de Miromesnil, 1777
25 1/2 in. (64.8 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York; Purchased 1935
Adopting the dignity of a Roman imperial bust, Houdon portrays the marquis in his august role as minister of justice of France, which he held for thirteen years beginning in 1774. The highly polished surface of his official costume, including the buttoned cassock, bow-tied sash, and voluminous robe, is distinct from the delicately textured carving that defines the sitter’s wig and frames his fleeting expression. Houdon conveys the marquis’s intellect through the tensed features around his mouth and the sideways glance of his eyes, which glint with uncanny realism as small reserves of marble highlight the darker recesses of his pupils.