Portrait of a Gentleman


Last quarter of XVIII century

Terracotta, in.17,5 x 15 x 9


The sculpture here examined, appears totally analogous to the other bust published in this catalogue and signed by Gaetano Merchi, even if of slightly smaller dimension. Also in this work of art the portrayed is a middle-aged man, clearly belonging to the French upper class of the last quarter of the XVIII century as the formal attire of the sitter reveals. Differently from the Merchi bust, in this portrait the artist seems to handle a more psychologically introspective style, together with a detailed portraiture of the sitter, that is investigated in a deep manner both in the slightly frowning gaze of the sitter, that in the careful rendering of the skin details.
Despite his good handling of the sculpting language, it is difficult to identify the name of this author, whom activity unfolded in the second half of the XVIII century, as the fashion attire and the comparison with other similar works of the major sculptors of the time might suggest. Certainly an artist to be found within one of the provincial sculpture academy that blossomed around France, that– differently from the Parisian portrait sculptors –could allow themselves a wider range of style variations from the rigid academic rules and representative ideals of the Parisian ruling class.
This bust can be compared with the art production of the versatile sculptor Luc Breton (Besancon 1731 - 1800), pupil of Claude Francois Attire, who trained both in France and Italy, but remained active, above all, in his native Besancon. To document such comparison lets look at his terracotta bust, with a bronze like finish, that portrays the Prince of Beauffremont (Besançon, Musée de Beaux Arts).This work of art shares with our bust analogous expressive characters and technical solutions, as well as the evident physiognomic concurrence of the features of the sitter, that could be the same person depicted at a slightly older age.

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