Louis Simon BOIZOT (Paris, 1743 – 1809)

Bust of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre

H. 95 cm. (3 ft. 1 7/16 in.)

circa 1781

• Sotheby’s Sale, New York, The Cyril Humphris Collection of European Sculpture and Works of Art, January 10th, 1995, lot 71.
• France, Private Collection.

• Emile Bourgeois, Le Biscuit de Sèvres, Paris, fig. 412.
• John Hearsey, Marie Antoinette, London, 1972.
• Simone Hoog, Les Sculptures. I-Le Musée, Paris, 1993, p. 263, fig. 1199.

General Bibliography :
• Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire de Sculpteurs de l’Ecole Francaise au Dix-Huitième Siècle, Paris, 1910,
Vol. III, p. 85-92.

Immediately recognizable with her characteristic high-bridged nose, firm mouth and chin, not to mention well-observed dimpled cheeks, the proud sovereign gazes into the distance. Her eyes, with their well-carved pupils, turn to the right. The queen’s own natural waxed hair is swept back into curls and ringlets which cascade from her high forehead which is embeliished with a diadem and a row of pearls secured by a broad ribbon tied at the back,. A single heavy plait falls down her back, while her lace-trimmed dress nonchalantly knotted over her bosom is partially masked by swathes of drapery falling broadly over her left shoulder. This cloth and the torso it covers are abruptly truncated at the base, and thus indicate that the sculpture was formerly attached to a larger base or pedestal.

This important bust of Marie-Antoinette was sculpted by Boizot for a commission for the Department of Foreign Affairs and exhibited in the Salon of 1781.
The model for it was exhibited in 1779 at the Salon of Correspondence. A similar plaster model is now in Versailles.

The year 1781 was notable, for the Queen gave birth to the Crown Prince, the Duke of Normandy, on October twenty-second. Unfortunately, he was a sickly child who died in 1789. His younger brother thus became the uncrowned Louis XVII.

The importance given to this bust was confirmed in 1784 when the Manufacture de Sèvres made an unglazed bust which accompanied a biscuit bust of Louis XVI, also after a marble by Boizot.
A pair of these unglazed Sèvres porcelains are in the collection of H. M. The Queen. Emile Bourgeois attributed the bust of Marie Antoinette to an almost unknown sculptor called Wengmuller, who is recorded as working at the Manufacture de Sèvres for four years (1786-1789). However, the model has since been reattributed to the hand of Boizot by Pierre Ennes, Curator of the Department of Objects at the Louvre.

The haughty, indifferent and regal pose of Marie-Antoinette is enhanced by the superb workmanship of the marble. Note the definition of her hair swept off her face, falling in tendrils around her neck, and the subtle treatment of her strong features juxtaposed against the dramatic deep folds of the drapery, which are emphasized by the delicacy in the handling of the lace along her neckline.
This bust exudes the character of the young, headstrong queen who so wantonly exclaimed to her confidant, Mercy, the Austrian Ambassador, ’I am terrified of being bored!’ However by the mid 1780’s, she had incurred the wrath of her subjects and attained the name – among others – of Madame Deficit, in reference to her outlandish spending and gambling which helped keep her occupied. Her mother, Maria-Theresa, Empress of Austria (1717-1780), foresaw the eventual problems that her foolish daughter would bring upon herself and, on many occasions, tried to curtail Marie-Antoinette in her letters in which she wrote on one occasion,

“Do not let your frivolity lose the goodwill with which you started, for the King is known to be very easy going, and you will get the blame.”

Simon-Louis Boizot was the pupil of Michel-Ange Slodtz. After winning first prize for sculpture in 1762 with the subject of The Death of Germanicus, he obtained his diploma for the French Academy in Rome where he went in 1765 and stayed until 1770. He returned to Paris, where he remained until his death in 1809 and exhibited regularly at the Salon in the Louvre. From 1774 to 1785, he was Director of the Royal workshops at the Manufacture de Sèvres.

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