Falconet, Etienne Maurice

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Falconet, Etienne Maurice (1716-1791): French Sculptor.

Etienne Maurice Falconet was an internationally renowned sculptor whose works and writings shaped the post-Baroque art of his time, particularly for France and Russia. Born in Paris, Falconet studied with the master Jean Baptiste Lemoyne. His first important marble sculpture, Milo of Croton and the Lion, earned him admission to the Academy of Fine Arts. His primary patron, Pompadour, Marquise de, helped him to become the director of the famous Sevres porcelain factory in 1757. His statue of the Bather (1757) was most characteristic of the Rococo style he employed for his works in the porcelain factory. The Russian empress Catherine II, the Great invited Falconet to create sculptures in Russia in 1766 upon the suggestion of Diderot, Denis. In Russia, Falconet became most famous for designing and executing the statue of the Bronze Horseman, Catherine’s monument to Peter I in St. Petersburg. He left Russia in 1778. During the 1780s, Falconet worked primarily on discourses about art rather than on sculpture itself.

Falconet’s greatest contribution to the Enlightenment period was his ability to combine artistic styles to create unified images of historical and mythological figures. Works such as the Allegory of Music (1751) and Cupid’s Warning (1755-57) smoothed the style of the Baroque to fit the Rococo boudoir. Falconet’s most notable public achievement, however, was the Bronze Horseman statue, which depicted Peter I as an enlightened monarch pointing out the way for Russia. This statue later served as a key point of departure for several generations of Russian authors and poets, such as Alexander Pushkin, who grappled with the issue of enlightened despotism as represented in Falconet’s work.

Further Reading:

George Levitine, The Sculpture of Falconet, 1972.

Alisa Gayle Mayor