Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment

Images from
Jean-Antoine Houdon
Sculptor of the Enlightenment
Anne L. Poulet

Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) has long been recognized as the greatest European portrait sculptor of the late eighteenth century. Whether sculpting a head of state or a young child, Houdon had an uncanny ability to capture the essence of his subject with a characteristic pose or expression.

Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment is now the definitive work on Houdon. With more than one hundred color plates and two hundred black and white halftones, the book illustrates every stage of the sculptor's fascinating career, from his stunning portraits of American patriots such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to his striking portrayals of legendary Enlightenment figures like Diderot and Voltaire. More than representations, these sculptures provide us fascinating, intimate glimpses into the very core of who these individuals were. Houdon's genius animated even his less illustrious subjects, like his portraits of his family and friends, and filled his sculptures of children with delicacy and freshness.

The images below link to reproductions of six of the many full-page color plates in the book. Please note two things: (1) The individual image file sizes range up to 250kB—they make take several minutes to download on modem connections. (2) File size notwithstanding, pictures transferred electronically over the internet can do scant justice to the richness of the illustrations in this book.


L'Ecorchè (Figure of a Flayed Man, Right Arm Extended Horizontally), dated 1767, white plaster with self-base, 181 x 59 x 71 cm, Académie de France à Rome

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, called Molière (1622-1673), dated 1781, terracotta, with plaster restorations, on circular gray marble base, 50 x 49 x 33 cm, Musée des Beaux Arts, Orléans

Mme Houdon, née Marie-Ange-Cécile Langlois (1765-1823), probably 1786, plaster on plaster base, 48.5 x 39.5 x 26.7 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Département des Sculptures, RF 1391

François-Marie Arouet, called Voltaire (1694-1778), dated 1778, white marble with dark gray inclusions and veining on gray marble base, 36.8 x 21.4 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 1789, white marble on white marble base, 56.5 x 48 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, George Nixon Black Fund 34.129

Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France (1769-1821), dated 1806, terracotta, 52.5 x 27.7 x 20.5 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon


The Houdon exhibition is appearing at the following venues:
The National Gallery of Art, Washington: May 4 to September 7, 2003
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: November 4, 2003 to January 25, 2004
Musée et Domaine National du Château de Versailles: March 1 to May 30, 2004


Anne Poulet
Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment
©2003, 400 pages, 144 color plates, 225 halftones, 9 x 11
Cloth $85.00 ISBN: 0-226-67647-1
Paper $50.00 ISBN: 0-226-67649-8

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online— please go to the webpage for Jean-Antoine Houdon.

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