Saturday, September 25, 2010

Masterpiece of the Week: A Sèvres Bust of French King Louis XVI, 1785

Bust of Louis XVI
Louis-Simon Boizot, 1785
The Royal Collection
British King George IV had a special interest in the history of France—particularly the empire as it was during the reign of the Bourbons and earlier dynasties. King George IV commissioned Sèvres porcelain-makers to create a series of busts of the French Kings from Louis XII to Louis XVIII. The busts were created in biscuit. Biscuit, an unglazed porcelain which mimics the look of marble, was referred to as Parian ware after the Nineteenth Century.

Of these remarkable biscuit figures, only two survive today—owing largely to Parian’s delicate nature. This bust of King Louis XVI is particularly exquisite. Great attention was paid by sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot to ensure that every detail was accurate down to the positioning of King Louis’ buttons and badges.

Biscuit is a stunning material if not a fragile one. While it’s a pity that only two of these busts remain, we can take comfort in the fact that all of them weren’t accidentally destroyed. This piece and its brother can be seen in Britain’s Royal Collection.

No comments: