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Edmé Bouchardon (29 May 1698 – 27 July 1762) was a French sculptor, esteemed in his day as the greatest sculptor of his time[1] and valued as a draughtsman as well.[2]


Water-spouting dolphin to left, with a Cupid

Water-spouting dolphin to right, with a Cupid


Born at Chaumont-en-Bassigny, the son of a sculptor and architect, Jean-Baptiste Bouchardon (1698–1762), he became the pupil of Guillaume Coustou and gained the prix de Rome in 1722. Resisting the barocchetto tendency of the day he was classic in his taste, as if he had taken for his motto, according to the vigorous and perceptive connoisseur the comte de Caylus, "To appropriate for himself the talent of the Ancients and find it again in Nature"[3] "pure and chaste" the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica asserted, "always correct, charming and distinguished, a great stickler for all the finish that sandpaper could give." During the ten years he remained at Rome, Bouchardon made a striking bust of Pope Benedict XIII (1730).
Replica of the Barberini Faun, by Bouchardon when at the French Academy in Rome, 1726.

In 1746 he produced his first acclaimed masterpiece, "Cupid fashioning a Bow out of the Club of Hercules" (Musée du Louvre[4], which struck early viewers as shockingly crude in its unidealised naturalism. Of his two other leading chefs-d'oeuvre the survivor is the Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons in the rue de Grenelle, Paris,[5] commissioned by the city of Paris in 1739, the first portions of which had been finished and exhibited in 1740, and the completed work completed in 1745. The great loss, on the other hand, is the equestrian statue of Louis XV of France, also a commission from the city of Paris, conceived as a monument to France's victory in the War of Austrian Succession (1740–48) but only installed after France's defeat in the Seven Years' War (1756–63). That Bouchardon would be commissioned as sculptor was understood from the beginning.[6] Bouchardon did not live to finish this work, which, when the model was produced, was declared the finest work of its kind ever produced in France; he left its completion to Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. It was destroyed during the French Revolution.

For a quarter-century Bouchardon designed the jetons, or New Year's tokens distributed by the King, and the medals. Die-cutters working for the mint, executed the dies. the subjects and the mottoes (legendes) were chosen by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, the Petit-Académie and passed through an elaborate process of critical apoproval, which involved the king. The result is an archive of Bouchardon drawings at the Bibliothèque de l'Institut (for the jetons) and the Musée de la Monnaie (for the medals); a great cache of counterproofs at the Bibliothèque National.

His brother Jacques Bouchardon was also a sculptor, who became first sculptor to the king of Sweden.


1. ^ The noted antiquary and connoisseur, the comte de Caylus, who had followed Bouchardon's career closely since 1733 and hailed him as a modern Phidias, wrote a Vie d'Edmé Bouchardon, (Paris, 1763) that has been reprinted in Geneva 1973; Voltaire wrote to Caylus in 1740, '"Il me semble que vous méritiez de naître dans un plus beau siècle. Nous avons un Bouchardon, mais nous n'avons guères que luy" (Voltaire, Oeuvres Completes Correspondance vol. 91 [Geneva 1970:276 D. 2294], noted in Marc Fumaroli, "Le comte de Caylus et l'Académie des Inscriptions", Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres 139.1 (1995:225-250).
2. ^ His biographer Caylus engraved several of Bouchardon's drawings.
3. ^ "S'approprier le talent des Anciens et le retrouver sur la Nature" (Caylus 1763).
4. ^ Louvre database
5. ^ Now near the junction with the boulevard Raspail.
6. ^ Discussed by Stephen Rombouts, "Art as Propaganda in Eighteenth-Century France: The Paradox of Edme Bouchardon's Louis XV", Eighteenth-Century Studies 27.2 (Winter 1993-94), pp. 255-282.

* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.).

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