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Montigny, Jean Robert Nicolas Lucas de (French, b.1747, d.1810)
Bust of a Lady
terracotta on marble stand
645 x 325 x 265 mm
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1964 by the National Art Collections Fund, London "In appreciation of the services to the gallery of Mrs A G Pearse, Director 1945-64"
Having sound and useful contacts in Britain was important for the development of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s collection and Annette Pearse, who had been the Gallery’s director since 1946, was good at initiating and fostering such relationships. The National Art Collections Fund (NACF) was one of the most important of these contacts. When Mrs Pearse retired in 1964, the NACF, through her old friend Sir Alec Martin, chairman of Christie’s from 1940 to 1958, presented this terracotta bust in appreciation of her services. It was a gallant and significant gesture. Martin had co-opted Sir Anthony Blunt, Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, for help in selecting the gift.
The work, the only one of its kind in the collection, is an example of a sculptural bust from the Rococo period of the French court. It was made in 1782, the same year as a splendid bust of Marie Antoinette was produced by the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory. The sitter for the Gallery’s bust is thought to have been the elder daughter of the celebrated French comedian Pierre-Louis Dubus, called Préville, whose performance in the five roles in the Mercure Galant, when presented at Fontainebleau, had impressed Louis XV.
Although modest, especially by comparison with the Sèvres, elements of the personal style and courtly fashion so famously pursued by Antoinette are reflected in this bust – particularly the upswept bouffant hair loosely tied with a ribbon, the structural shoulder-length ringlets and the low-fronted gown. The long chin and small mouth are reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s own features. Although this bust is a portrait of the sitter, its refined rusticity, form and fashion reflect the French court style in vogue at the time.

not on view

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