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Bust - Marquis de Miromesnil
  • Marquis de Miromesnil
    Houdon, Jean-Antoine, born 1741 - died 1828
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Marquis de Miromesnil

  • Object:

    Bust

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1775 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Houdon, Jean-Antoine, born 1741 - died 1828 (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Marble

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased under the bequest of Captain H. B. Murray

  • Museum number:

    A.19-1963

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 4, case PL3

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1823) is generally recognized as the pre-eminent European portrait sculptor of the last half of the 18th century. He excelled in penetrating portrayals of the great intellectual, military, and political figures of the Enlightenment, as well as portraits of children. He was also masterly in conveying textiles and other textures in carved marble, and this is a good example of that aspect of his work.

In this marble bust, signed by Houdon and dated 1775, Armand-Thomas Hue de Miromesnil (1723-1796) is shown in the robes of a magistrate. The bust, which was exhibited in the Salon of 1775, probably commemorated the appointment that year of Miromesnil to be Garde des Sceaux (Minister of Justice). He wears a stiff and voluminous wig, his gaze slightly turned to his left.

A second marble version of this bust, signed and dated 1777, is in the Frick Collection, New York, and there is a later unsigned marble version in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier.

Physical description

Armand-Thomas Hue de Miromesnil is shown in the robes of a magistrate (the bust probably commemorates his appointment as Garde des Sceaux, Minister of Justice). He wears a stiff and voluminous wig, his gaze slightly turned to his left.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

1775 (made)

Artist/maker

Houdon, Jean-Antoine, born 1741 - died 1828 (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Marble

Marks and inscriptions

'A. T. HUE MARQUIS DE MIROMENIL GARDE DES SCEAUX./ HOUDON F. 1775'

Dimensions

Height: 86 cm including socle, Width: 67 cm, Depth: 36.5 cm, Diameter: 26.5 cm socle

Object history note

This bust of Miromesnil, signed and dated 1775, was exhibited at the Salon that year. On 24 August 1774, Miromesnil had received the seals of the powerful office of Garde des Sceaux (Minister of Justice) from the King, Louis XVI. This bust was probably commissioned by Miromesnil to commemorate his appointment to this position.

The V&A bust has a broken (repaired) nose and deep fissure in the marble at the left shoulder. Poulet has suggested that because of these flaws, Houdon kept it in his studio until his death. The flawless version in the Frick (inv. 1935.2.78), signed and dated 1777, was acquired by Miromesnil and remained in his family until the early 20th century.

From the René Fribourg Collection, bought at Sotheby's for £2000, in 1963. Formerly Paris art market 1898 (said to ahve come from the Goulaine family in Normandy); then Connecticut in the Vanderbilt Collection; then Baron Cassel van Doorn collection.

Descriptive line

Bust, marble, Marquis de Miromesnil, by Jean-Antoine Houdon, French, 1775

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

A. Poulet [with others], Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment, (exhibition catalogue), Washington, 2003, pp. 186-190
Williamson, P. (ed.) European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1986, p. 165
Hodgkinson, T., French Eighteenth Century Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, in V&A Museum Yearbook, 1972, p. 100
Hodgkinson, T., "Houdon and Clodion, Masters of Elegance", in: Apollo, May 1971, p. 397
H.H. Arnason, The Sculpture of Houdon, London, 1975 pp. 30-31
L.Réau, Houdon, 1964, Part III, p. 37 (no. 163)
The Frick Collection, illustrated catalogue, iv, 1970, p.120
Baker, Malcolm, A Sort of Corporate Company. Approaching the portrait bust in its setting, in Return to Life. A New Look at the Portrait Bust, (exhib. Cat.), Leeds, 2000, p. 29, fig 7
2
Jean-Antoine Houdon : eight portrait busts, New York : Frick Collection, 1981

Labels and date

The Marquis de Miromesnil
1775

In this formal and imposing portrait, the sitter wears the robes of a magistrate. He probably commissioned the bust to mark his political appointment to the position of Garde des Sceaux. Houdon, the pre-eminent portrait sculptor of the time, conveys the textures of the sitter’s skin, wig and robes in marble with extraordinary skill.

France (Paris)
By Jean-Antoine Houdon
Marble
Purchased with funds from the Captain H.B. Murray Bequest

The Encyclopédie, Vol. 3, 1753:

‘Garde des Sceaux de France. Is one of the great officers of the Crown, whose principal duty is to look after the great seal of the King. He seals all letters which have to be sent out under the seals in his custody. The royal seal is always considered an essential attribute of royalty, and the custody and application of the seal as one of the most important duties.’ [09/12/2015]
The bust, which was exhibited in the Salon of 1775, probably commemorated the appointment that year of Miromesnil to be Garde des Sceaux (Minister of Justice). A second marble vertsion, signed and dated 1777, is in the Frick Collection, New York, and there is a later unsigned marble version in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier. [1985]
MARQUIS DE MIROMESNIL (1723-1796)
French; signed and dated 1775
Marble
By Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1823)
Purchased under the bequest of Captain H. B. Murray

The sitter is shown in the robes of a magistrate, and the bust probably commemorated his appointment as Garde des Sceaux (Minister of Justice). A second marble version signed and dated 1777, is in the Frick Collection, and there is a later unsigned marble in the Musee Fabre, Monpellier.
[1993 - 2011]

Materials

Marble

Techniques

Carving

Categories

Portraits; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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