Height 71 cm
This bust may be a portrait of Théophile Malo de la Tour d’Auvergne (1743– 1800), whom Napoleon appointed “Premier Grenadier de la République”, or commander in chief of the French infantry, in April 1800. His magnificent armour, his queue wig tied with a bow, and the sideward turn of his head exude aristocratic self-assurance. In contrast with the graphically formulated details, for instance in the armour, it is striking how Lemoyne creates an impression of softness in his treatment of the skin; dimples, lines and small pockets of fat, as well as the eyes, complete with pupils, bring the face to life. The bust of the count is distinguished by its urbane elegance, the sensitive surface modelling, the individuality of the features and an air of restrained refinement in place of the Baroque tendency towards excess.
Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne II was trained first by his father Jean-Louis Lemoyne (1665–1755) in Paris and later by Robert Le Lorrain (1666–1743). For family reasons he was unable to accept a scholarship to study in Rome. He was appointed director of the Académie Royale and became one of the most influential sculptors under Louis XV, serving as portraitist to the royal family and members of the court. In his portraits he combines majestic movement with a suggestion of the softness of skin. It was in portraiture, one of the most important genres of eighteenth-century French sculpture, that he created his groundbreaking works. Among his pupils were sculptors who also had a decisive influence on the art of the second half of the eighteenth century: Augustin Pajou, Etienne Maurice Falconet, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Jean-Jacques Caffieri and Jean-Antoine Houdon.