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Impressive large bronze bust of Madame du Barry signed Augustin Pajou

Very large bronze bust of Madame du Barry signed Augustin Pajou

This large and intriguing French bronze sculpture signed Pajou features a bust of Madame du Barry (1743-1793), the last maîtresse-en-titre of King Louis XV of France. The original marble sculpture is in the collection of the Musée du Louvre in Paris (see last photo). It was commissioned from the famous sculptor Augustin Pajou (1730-1809) by Madame Du Barry probably in 1772, as it was nearing completion in the spring of 1773. Also it was cited in the living room of the Château de Louveciennes in the inventory of June 1774.

The back of the sculpture is inscribed: “PORTRAIT DE MADAME LA CONTESSE DU BARY – PAJOU SCULPTEUR”.

Impressive by its size and its exceptionally realistic and beautiful sculpting, this bronze bust of Madame du Barry is a true eye-catcher. This work is in an excellent state of preservation with a lively brown patina.

Details of this bronze bust of Madame du Barry signed Pajou

France, circa 1870.
Dimensions: 71 cm high, 48 cm wide and 28 cm deep.
Weight: 31 kg.

Augustin Pajou (1730-1809)

Augustin Pajou, born 19 September 1730 in Paris and died in the same city on 8 May 1809, is a French neoclassical sculptor. Pajou was the son of a sculptor and took his first lessons with his father. He later became a student of Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne. At the age of 18 he won the Prix de Rome, which enabled him to study in Rome at the Académie de France. King Louis XV offered him financial assistance when he studied there. In 1761, he married Angélique Roumier, daughter of the sculptor Claude Roumier.

Pajou was a neoclassical sculptor and became known for his portraits of famous French people, including Madame du Barry, Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun and Queen Marie Leszczyńska. Also he was one of the main artists whose work was included in the collection of the Comédie-Française at the end of the 18th century.

Madame du Barry (1743-1793)

Comtesse du Barry (19 August 1743 – 8 December 1793) was the last maîtresse-en-titre of King Louis XV of France. She was born into a poor family in the French city of Vaucouleurs, as Marie-Jeanne Bécu, the natural daughter of Anne Bécu, who was domestic servant to wealthy and noble families. She received an excellent and well-cared for education thanks to her mother’s employer. At a young age she came to Paris under the name “Mademoiselle Lange”, where she was put to work in a fashion studio, but she soon ended up in the atmosphere of the salons due to her charm.

Struck by her special beauty, knight Jean du Barry made her his mistress and promoted her to higher spheres. There she was noticed by the Duke of Richelieu. Supported by the clan around the Duke of Richelieu, Jeanne was presented to the king in 1767. The King was elderly at the time and had successively lost his son, the Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand, his wife Marie Leszczyńska and his mistress and friend Madame de Pompadour. He was quickly charmed by the young woman’s beauty and she moved into Versailles in the same year.

In 1768, when the king wished to make Jeanne maîtresse-en-titre, etiquette required her to be the wife of a high courtier, so she was hastily married on 1 September 1768 to Comte Guillaume du Barry. The wedding ceremony was accompanied by a false birth certificate, created by Jean-Baptiste du Barry, the comte’s older brother. The certificate made Jeanne appear younger by three years and obscured her poor background.

Her arrival at the French royal court scandalized some, as she had been a prostitute as well as being of low birth. She was shunned by many, including Marie Antoinette, whose contempt for Jeanne caused alarm and dissension at court. Due to this relationship, Louis XV became increasingly alienated from his family, especially his daughters, so that he was forced to have the luxurious pavilion of Louvecienne built for his mistress. Madame du Barry had little political ambition, but her influence on the king was not small. She was allowed to address him familiarly and she called him “la France”.

A great lover of the arts, she was a patron to various painters and craftsmen and helped to nurture the Neo-Classical style at Versailles. She commissioned a number of works from the cabinet-maker Delanois, the woodworker Leleu and the painters Fragonard and Vien. A friend of Voltaire, she visited him until his death in 1778.

Upon the death of Louis XV in May 1774, she was banished from Versailles by order of his successor, Louis XVI, and sent to the Pont-aux-Dames convent in Meaux. In 1776, she retired to Louveciennes. Denounced during the Terror, she was guillotined on 8 December 1793.

Literature

  • The original marble sculpture is in the collection of the Musée du Louvre in Paris (inv.nr. MR 2651).

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