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Voltaire 1781

Jean-Antoine Houdon 1741-1828

Marble; h 138 cm

This statue was commissioned by Catherine II in 1780, but four years later it was placed in the Grotto at Tsarskoye Selo. The figure of Voltaire seated in a chair is the most vivid and polished of all Houdon's sculptural portraits of the famed writer and philosopher. Voltaire posed for the master not long before his death and is here portrayed as a frail old man, and yet the sculptor managed to convey the inner fire which burned on within Voltaire until the very last days of his life. The statue is remarkable for the depth of its characterization and for the skilled craftsmanship. Houdon was able to reproduce the smooth and shining surface of the fabric, the deep wrinkles on the face, the dryness of the old man's fingers, and his piercing gaze. This splendid work by Houdon was much admired by the prominent French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

 

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