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Review: “Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment”- a MUST SEE Exhibit at the Getty Center

Review: “Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment” at the Getty Center

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

 All photography ©2017 Leticia Marie Sanchez

This Enlightening Cultural Cocktail recipe includes: Splashes of Sculpture and Infusions of Drawing!

Juxtaposition is the name of the game at the Getty’s exhibit on Edmé Bouchardon. Sculpture and Drawing. The Sacred and the Profane. Aristocracy and the Common Man. Juxtapositions work seamlessly in this vast exhibit, co-organized by the Musée du Louvre, providing a window into an artist of the Enlightenment, who was truly a Renaissance Man.

The son of a provincial sculptor, Bouchardon first studied under his father and then under sculptor Guillaume Coustou. Winner of the Prix De Rome, Bouchardon lived in Italy for a decade. His Italian sojourn proved to be a formative part of his career; Bourchardon immersed himself in classical works, refining his technique while copying the masters. While in Rome, he gained a commission to sculpt the bust of Pope Clement XII. Bouchardon worked in the orbit of Europe’s elite, from the Pope to Louis XV, although the Versailles court did not always appreciate his talent.

Despite his associations with the powerful, Bouchardon found inspiration in nameless street vendors. In addition to Bouchardon’s august sculptures, the exhibit includes his drawing series on humble street merchants, Les Cris de Paris.In The Woman with a Headscarf  the voluminous folds in the sitter’s headscarf have a sculptural quality, imbuing the anonymous street peddler with dignity and gravitas. Bouchardon’s virtuosity in each medium not only informs his work, it elevates it.

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Edme Bouchardon,

Head of a Woman Wearing a Headscarf

Red chalk

The journey through the exhibit includes renderings of noblemen and street vendors, as well as interlaced images of the Sacred and the Profane.Right around the corner from the Virgin of Sorrows is a mischievous mythological schemer: Cupid Carving a Bow from Hercules’s Club. Slowly viewing the exquisite sculpture from a 360-degree vantage point enhances the experience, as do Bouchardon’s red chalk drawings in which he prepared his sculpture for a three dimensional viewing.  Bouchardon’s Cupid is especially brazen, having pilfered the weapons of the God of War (Mars) as well the club of the strongest hero (Hercules) The self-satisfied grin on the visage of the naughty Cupid contrasts with the pathos of the Virgin of Sorrows. Bouchardon evoked atmospheres of tragedy and mirth with equal finesse. Similarly, he created works in sculpture, drawing, and coins with dexterous aplomb.

Bouchardon Cupid 3

Cupid Carving a Bow from Hercule’s Club 1750,

Edme Bouchardon, marble.

Musée du Louvre,

Département des Sculptures, Paris.

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Virgin of Sorrows (detail)


Edme Bouchardon,

tonnerre stone



Bouchardon’s contemporary, art critic Charles-Nicolas Cochin, hailed Bouchardon as “the greatest sculptor and the best draftsman of his century.”

This MUST SEE exhibit brings to center stage a relatively unknown artist whose work- in all mediums- is truly enlightening.

Posted by on February 21st, 2017

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