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Bust - Head of a Bearded Old Man
  • Head of a Bearded Old Man
    Pajou, Augustin, born 1730 - died 1809
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Head of a Bearded Old Man

  • Object:

    Bust

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1761 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Pajou, Augustin, born 1730 - died 1809 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Terracotta

  • Museum number:

    A.8-1974

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 4, case WW

This is very likely the sculpture which was exhibited by Pajou in the Salon of 1761 (livret entry No. 139) as 'Tête de Vieillard', head of an old man.

Almost certainly a portrait modelled from life - and Pajou excelled in terracotta portraits (e.g. V&A Museum Number A.27-1959) - it has been suggested that this bust represents St Augustine, who is generally depicted with a long flowing beard and thoughtful expression. This would link the bust to one of the most important commissions received by Pajou in his early years, shortly after his return from Rome. There are arguments in favour of this theory. We know that in 1761 Pajou was working on his marble statue of this saint for the Hôtel des Invalides. His St Augustine was one of a series commissioned in the middle of the 18th century to replace existing plaster statues dating from the late 17th century. The most notable Parisian sculptors were involved and it was one of the few ambitious schemes for religious sculpture at the time. At the Revolution, all were removed and almost all, including the St Augustine, disappeared.

That the terracotta bust was conceived as a part of a full-length statue rather than as an autonomous work of art is indicated by the abrupt truncation; and the suggested drapery is consistent with the cope worn by the full-length figure of the Saint. In addition, the bust is a little larger than life-size, which would correspond with its being a full-scale model and highly finished study for the Invalides statue which we know stood about 7' 9" high. However, this theory is considerably weakened by the fact that St Augustine is almost invariably depicted as wearing a mitre, and moreover a contemporary sketch of Pajou’s model of Saint Augustine exhibited at the same Salon of 1761 shows the Saint wearing one.

This bust can more appropriately be seen in the context of Têtes d’Expression which were heads (faces) created as an academic exercise in depicting human emotion. Such studies were a requirement of sculptors who wished to be officially recognised by the Academy. Pajou’s interest in studying and representing old men is demonstrated by his black chalk studies on this subject (private collection); a medallion in the Chapelle de la Providence, Versailles, and two other terracotta heads - in Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario) and New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art). This head may simply be a penetrating psychological study, created at the time Pajou was working on St Augustine.

Physical description

Terracotta bust of an old man, slightly larger than life size, with hair swept back off his face and thick, flowing beard. The beard protrudes beyond the truncation below it. There is a fold of drapery at the back of the neck (perhaps indicating a cope). The eyes are downcast and the face lined, particularly at the sides of the eyes and seen in the deeply furrowed brow.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

1761 (made)

Artist/maker

Pajou, Augustin, born 1730 - died 1809 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Terracotta

Marks and inscriptions

Pajou.fé./Ce 8 May/1761.
On the right side, as you are facing the bust

Dimensions

Height: 64 cm, Width: 45 cm maximum, top of shoulders, Depth: 26.5 cm, Width: 24 cm Base, Depth: 23 cm Base

Object history note

Terence Hodgkinson suggests this is the sculpture which was exhibited in the Salon of 1761 as 'Tête de Vieillard'. Its history thereafter is obscure. It passed into the David Weill Collection, Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the 19th century and is illustrated in the standard book on Pajou by Henri Stein (1911). In recent years it seems to have been in a relatively obscure private collection, from which it was acquired by the Heim Gallery.

Its identification as St. Augustine was proposed by Hodgkinson when it was acquired by the V&A. As he remarks: "In 1761 Pajou was working on his marble statue of this saint for the Dôme des Invalides. Indeed, in the Salon of this year, as well as the 'Tête de Vieillard', Pajou exhibited a small terracotta sketch model for the statue of St. Augustine. Although the Heim Gallery bust was almost certainly modelled from life, it conforms to the traditional representation of a Doctor of the Church.

"That the bust was conceived as a part of a full-length statue rather than as an autonomous work of art is indicated by the summary truncation; and the fold of drapery at the front is consistent with the cope worn by the full-length figure of the Saint. In addition, the bust is a little larger than life-size which would correspond with its being a full-scale model and highly finished study for the Invalides statue, which we know stood about 7' 9" high.

"The statue of St Augustine was one of a series commissioned in the middle of the 18th century to replace existing plaster statues dating from the late 17th century (Pajou was to replace a St Augustine by Poultier). The most notable Parisian sculptors were involved and it was one of the few ambitious schemes for religious sculpture at the time. At the Revolution, all were removed and almost all, including the St Augustine, disappeared".

This bust therefore records one of the most important commissions received by Pajou in his early years, shortly after his return from Rome.

Descriptive line

Head of an Old Man, terracotta, by Augustin Pajou, French, 1761

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

Stein, H., Augustin Pajou, 1912 , p.20, ill.pp. 23, 397
Draper, J.D., in exhibition catalogue Augustin Pajou, Royal Sculptor, New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Paris (Louvre), 1997, Cat. 63, p.170
Scherf, G. 'Review of G. Gramaccini, Jean-Guillaume Moitte', Burlington Magazine, CXXXVI, March 1994, p. 182.
L'esprit créeateur de Pigalle à Canova. Terres cuites européenes 1740-1840, Musée du Louvre, paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2003-4, fig. 38 on p. 71.
Wardropper, I., and Coscia, J, Jnr., European Sculpture, 1400-1900, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press, 2011, pp.182-183

Labels and date

Bust of a Man
1761

This bust of a man in contemplation was probably made as an exercise in rendering human expressions. Such studies were modelled from life and depict a specific emotion, such as ‘despondency’ or ‘suffering’. They were seen as a test of skill and were a requirement for election to the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris.

France (Paris)
By Augustin Pajou
Terracotta

The Encyclopédie, Vol. 4, 1754:

‘Contemplation: According to the philosophers, contemplation is the act of understanding an idea or an object, and envisaging it from all its angles; which is one of the surest means of gaining an exact and profound knowledge of things, and advancing towards truth.’ [09/12/2015]
ST. AUGUSTINE
French; signed and dated 1761
Terracotta
By Augustine Pajou (b. 1730; d. 1809)

[1993 - 2011]

Subjects depicted

Saint

Categories

Sculpture; Portraits; Christianity

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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