Acquisition of a Bust of Jean Jacques Rousseau by Houdon for the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828)
Bust of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1780
Bronze - H. 45 cm
Frankfurt, Liebieghaus
Photo : Daniel Katz Ltd

19/3/12 - Acquisition - Frankfurt, Liebieghaus - The Liebieghaus Museum in Frankfurt is devoted to sculpture of every period from Antiquity to Neo-Classicism.
It has recently acquired a bronze bust of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Houdon (ill.) from Daniel Katz Ltd. in London.
Rousseau had obstinately refused to pose for the sculptor who was not able to start work on the bust until 1778 [1]. On the day the philosopher passed away, the Marquis de Girardin called for Houdon to make a plaster cast of his likeness. This mortuary mask, in plaster, now held at the Bibliothèque universitaire in Geneva, served as the model. All of Houdon’s busts of Rousseau are thus posthumous.
There are three known replicas. The first, known as "à la française", represents the author of Emile in modern dress, the arms cut off just below the shoulders. A terracotta version resides at the Louvre. A second one, of reduced size, presents a bare-headed likeness, uncostumed, while the third, of larger proportions, shows him as Hermès draped in antique fashion, wearing a headband.

The German museum has acquired a version of the third model. The work, founded in Houdon’s studio, is dated 1780 and its recent provenance shows it was in the Courty collection, sold in Paris at the Hôtel Drouot in 2002.
Only two other replicas are known today. One is held at the Louvre (dated 1778), the second can be found at the Abbaye de Chaalis. Several later editions were produced by Barbedienne.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 20 mars 2012


[1] Most of the information contained in this news item is drawn from : Guilhem Scherf, Houdon 1741-1828. Statues, portraits sculptés..., Louvre, 2006, pp. 82-89.

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