Portrait of a Young Woman
Marie Anne Collot (1748-1821)
1765, Patinated terracotta on pedestal
Dated 1765 and signed by the artist, this portrait of an unknown woman is one of sculptor Marie Anne Collot's earliest works. By the time she made it, she was already an established portraitist: although she was not yet twenty years old, she had created a dozen or so high-quality busts, distinguished by the particular way in which she modelled the terracotta, according to a distinctive personal style, and by her compositions which, as in this case, show the heads slightly inclined, with open mouths, and a mischievous gaze. She is celebrated for her Bust of Diderot, which we know was much appreciated by the great philosopher, and for the many works produced for the Moscow court, including portraits commissioned by Queen Catherine II herself, of the French personalities she most admired or members of her family; numerous examples of her talent from the Russian period are in the collection of the Hermitage. In Russia, she married the painter Pierre-Etienne Falconet, by whom she had a daughter, who she brought back to France when she decided to leave Russia, leaving her husband behind. In 1782, she went to Holland, where she sculpted busts of the Prince of Orange and his wife; she then abandoned sculpture to devote herself to her daughter and her father-in-law, who was gravely ill. At the time of the French Revolution, she retired to a village in the Moselle in search of peace and serenity.