The Wallace Collection

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Bacchante and Infant Bacchus
  • Style of Étienne Maurice Falconet (1716 - 1791)
  • Jean-Pierre-Antoine Tassaert (1727 - 1788), Possibly after a model by
  • Bacchante and Infant Bacchus
  • France
  • c. 1770 - 1800
  • Statuette
  • Marble
  • Height: 34.9 cm
  • S31
  • Dining Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • This small marble group represents a Bacchante (identifiable by the vine leaves in her hair) seated on a draped tree trunk offering grapes to the infant Bacchus who stands on the bole of the tree. This group and its pair representing Venus and Cupid (S30) share identical fluted pedestals and belong to a larger group of decorative sculptures in the style of Etienne Maurice Falconet.

    Falconet was one of the leading sculptors of the mid-eighteenth century. He worked in marble, terracotta and bronze and among his patrons could count Madame de Pompadour (L’Amour Menaçant, 1755) and Catherine the Great of Russia (Equestrian monument of Peter the Great, 1782).

    In 1757 he exhibited at the Salon a large-scale marble figure of a Nymph descending into the Bath which obtained universal praise, sparking a taste for similar, subtly erotic, delicately modelled decorative pieces.

    For a long time a large number of small-scale figures had been attributed to Falconet himself, perhaps on the basis of his collaboration with the royal manufacture at Sèvres, where from 1757 to 1766 he supervised the production of small biscuit sculptures after his most popular models (see C492 and C494). In reality, there is only a generic similarity with female figures exhibited by Falconet at the Salon in the 1750s and 60s and no documentary evidence links these marbles to him.

    It is now generally accepted that these small sculptures were produced by other artists taking advantage of Falconet’s popularity. Artists like Tassaert and the Broche brothers seem to have been especially successful in the production of such small decorative sculptures of mythological subject. These were specifically intended to furnish interiors and rival biscuit sculpture which was very popular as a complement to the furniture of this period.