Étienne Maurice

France • 1716−1791

Etienne Maurice Falcone (fr. Étienne Maurice Falconet; December 1, 1716, Paris - January 24, 1791, Paris) - French sculptor of the XVIII century. Director of the sculpture workshop of the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory, patronized by the Marquise de Pompadour. The result of the twelve years spent by E.M. Falconet in Russia was a sculpture of the equestrian emperor Peter I (The Bronze Horseman). He published several significant works on the theory of art, the author of the article "Sculpture" in the Didro Encyclopedia.

Features of the work of Etienne Maurice Falcone. At home, the sculptor is best known as a master of the lyric-idyllic genre. His small chamber sculptures of cupids, nymphs, bathers, etc. embody the emotional line of development of European classicism. Falconet is distinguished by a delicate taste, an impeccable sense of rhythm and purity of the line, the emotional truthfulness of female and children's images. The monumental monument to Peter I in St. Petersburg stands apart, remaining the only statue of such magnitude and scale in the works of Falcone.

Famous sculptures by Etienne Maurice Falconet: "Milon of Croton", "Threatening Cupid", "Pygmalion and Galatea", "Winter","Bronze Horseman"

The biography of Etienne Maurice Falcone, on the one hand, embodies all the laws of his time (commoner, the representative of the "third estate" became the most famous sculptor at the court of Louis XV and Catherine II), and on the other - full of paradoxes. The main one is that the creator of the grandiose monument to equestrian Peter in Petersburg was not at all by nature a gifted sculptor-muralist. At home, he was glorified by sculptures of a completely different kind and scale - a small crafty Cupid, who put a finger to his lips; a naked bather trying with her fingers of her foot the temperature of imaginary water; Pygmalion with the perfect Galatea suddenly revived from a stone dream.

A close friend of Falcone, a philosopher Denis Didro wrote about the complexity of his nature: “Here is a gifted person, possessing all kinds of qualities, compatible and incompatible with genius ... He has plenty of subtlety, taste, mind, delicacy, nobility and grace; he is rude and polite, affable and morose, gentle and cruel; he processes clay and marble, reads and thinks; he is gentle and stabbing, serious and playful; he is a philosopher who does not believe anything and knows well why ... "

Young years in the biography of Etienne Maurice Falconet

Falcone knows very little about childhood and youth. It is known that he was born on December 1, 1716 in Paris in a poor family that originated from the province of Savoy. His father was a joiner, and his grandfather was a farmer. Mother Falcone came from a family of shoemakers. The only relative of Etienne Maurice, who had at least something to do with art, was his uncle Nicola Guillaume, a marble worker. According to other biographers, Falcone began his career with the manufacture of wooden blanks, which were intended so that the neighboring Kuafer could show their own wigs.

Quite early Etienne Maurice met the famous portrait painter and sculptor of the king Jean Baptiste Lemoine. He will become for Falcone not only a teacher, but also a close friend. Lemoine attracted a young friend to decorate Versailles Park. Unfortunately, Falconet did not have a chance to visit Italy, and the sculptures that he had the opportunity to see at Versailles, in particular, the works of the outstanding 17th-century craftsman, became his “universities” Pierre Puget.

Having not received a systematic education, Falcone read a lot, especially ancient authors, independently learned Latin and tried to learn Greek, was interested in modern philosophy and, thanks to his acquaintance with Didro, Voltaire, d'Alembert, was close to the discourse asked in France by encyclopedists.

In 1744, the 28-year-old Falcone decides to enter the Royal Academy and for this purpose creates the gypsum group Milon of Croton. To the half-mythical strongman, the winner of countless Olympic games, who had ingloriously perished in a fight with a lion, Falcone presented his own, as he put it, “common people” face. However, many convinced the sculptor that his face is very similar to Socrates. Falcone agreed with this statement, considering

The Academy criticized the sculpture of Milon of Croton - it was considered an imitation of Pierre Puget, whose earlier "Milon"decorated Versailles. Falcone was admitted to the Academy only as "designated." A full member of the Academy (with all the attendant bonuses in the form of a free workshop in the Louvre, cash benefits and a noble title) Falcone will become only ten years later, when he repeats the same “Milon of Croton” in marble.

Royal sculptor fails

In 1748, Falcone finally awaited a royal order. Louis XV was recovering from a long serious illness, and the flattering court decided to perpetuate this event in marble. Turnheim, director of the royal buildings, suggested: let it be a bust of the king, and next to him - a woman embracing him, France. The drawing was made by the court painter QuapelleFalcone was invited to embody it in sculpture.

Falconet struggled with the sculpture for a long time, but it turned out to be unsuccessful - stupid, theatrical, pathetic. It was more like a inconsolable widow pulling her arms to the bust of her late husband. The workshop at the Louvre and the good fee did not compensate Falcone for job dissatisfaction. In the letters he repented: "I did a very bad model depicting France that hugs a bust of a king... dictated by Mr. Charles Kuapel, but this gentleman Charles Kuapel was the first artist of the king, and this was a work forced by the poverty of a young man; therefore, it can be smashed in any corner; at least I begged to be smashed, and I offered to return to the king the money I received as payment. ”

At this, the court career of Etienne Maurice Falcone could have ended if not for the first woman in the kingdom - the favorite of the king Marquis de Pompadour.

Favorite sculptor Madame de Pompadour

In a picturesque area halfway from Paris to Versailles, a beautiful castle was built for Madame de Pompadour. It was called Bellevue, which means "beautiful view." The castle was to be decorated with sculptures of only the best masters of their craft, and Falcone became one of them. When no one dictated the conditions to him, as with France embracing the bust of Louis, he became himself a sculptor with an ideal, almost antique sense of proportion.

For the Marquise, Falcone decided to create an allegorical statue "Music". The talented de Pompadour in that 1748 shone in the central role of the one-act ballet Aigle to the music of Legard. In his sculpture, depicting a young woman with a lyre and in a laurel wreath, Falconet evaded direct portrait resemblance to the marquise. He claimed that he only wanted to allegorically convey her success in the play. Apparently this succeeded. The marquise was flattered and pleased.

The annual participation in the Salons of the mid-1750s brings Falconet fame. In 1757 he exhibited sculptures "Nymph source" and "Menacing Cupid." Both receive extremely high ratings of criticism. “The nymph is the embodiment of youth, purity and feminine charm”- Denis Didro claimed in the journal Literary Correspondence. Harmonious and concise female figures become Falconet's “calling card”.

Even more enthusiastic reviews are caused by the "Threatening Cupid", the idea of creating which prompted Falconet Marquis de Pompadour. She commissioned a small rococo sculpture for the Bellevue residence. Falcone was not limited to rocaille aesthetics with its chubby and rather monotonous cupids, of which there were many Francois Boucher. Cupid in the interpretation of Falconet had realistic body lines, he had a complex pose and expressive gesture. But the main thing was that he had a character: the threatening Amur Falcone put a finger to his lips and looked penetratingly sneakily - so I say, I won’t betray your love secrets. Voltaire at the sight of Amur impromptu issued a quatrain:

Whoever you are, here is your master
He is
he was
and will be it.

Perhaps if Falconet hadn’t traveled to Russia in his mature years and created the Bronze Horseman, Cupid would have remained his emblem forever. The figurine was reproduced countless times. And the Marquise de Pompadour, seeing the talent and popularity of Falcone, in 1757 invites him to head the sculpture workshop of the Sevres Royal Porcelain Manufactory - an enterprise created by her and Louis XV. At first, Falconet will make sculptures based on the drawings of a luminous - Francois Boucher, but very soon it will become clear that Falcone is better on his own with the creation of nymphs, cupids, psyche and bathers.

Falcone - sculptor of the Church of St. Roch

For Sevres manufactory, Falcone came up with more than 70 types of figures, he created his own canon of children's and female sculpture. And yet he felt dissatisfaction. In what he does, he lacked scale. The frivolous products of the porcelain factory did not correspond very much to Falconet's nature - he was a rather complicated, intelligent, and difficult person.

In 1753, in Paris, they decided to reconstruct the church of St. Roch. Falcone with his project took part in the competition - and won it. The church council instructed the sculptor to direct all the church decoration work.

For almost a decade, without ceasing to direct the Sevres manufactory, Falcone created eight sculptures in the spirit of Italian Baroque for the church of St. Roch. He arranged them so that when moving from the porch to the altar, the tension of the worshipers grew emotionally. But Falcone’s plan, for all its popular popularity, was not appreciated by the friends of the sculptor - Didro and the encyclopedists. They convinced Falconet that all this baroque pomp and pathos was completely not in the spirit of the times. Time requires classicism - concise and simple forms.

Time really turned out to be cruel to Falconet's religious sculptures: with the exception of the Prayer for the Chalice, they will all be destroyed during the French Revolution.

A sharp turn in the Falconet biography

In 1764, the 42-year-old de Pompadour unexpectedly died. The death of the omnipotent marquise very sensitively hit Falcon. The aging master lost his patroness, and, in addition, the almost completed statue “Winter” remained unpaid in his workshop - the last order of the marquise.

In 1765 or 1766, the fate of Etienne Maurice Falcone made a sharp turn. Once he dined with his close friend Denis Didro. That day Dmitry Golitsyn, a young Russian ambassador, was invited to the publisher of the Encyclopedia. Recently, Catherine ascended the throne and corresponded with Didro, who saw in her a promising enlightened monarch. The empress asked Didro to advise her a French sculptor, who could realize her plan - a grandiose monument to Peter the Great.

According to the biographical legend, when Falcone heard about Golitsyn’s offer of the Russian Empress during dinner at Diderot, he became furious. For a long time he dreamed of creating something monumental, majestic, eternal. Falcone immediately, pushing the dishes away, depicted on the corner of the tablecloth his vision of the monument - a rider on a rearing horse, fearlessly jumping over the steep. And Diderot smiled: here, they say, Monsieur Golitsyn and found the one he was looking for.

Falconet so much wanted to create a monument to the Russian tsar, about which he read in Voltaire’s book “The History of Peter”, that he was not even afraid of a trip to a distant and rather mysterious country in the east. Falcone put forward only one fundamental condition: his student should go with him Marie Anna Collot.

Falconet in Russia

16-year-old Collot brought to the workshop of Lemoine Didro. He said that she was an orphan, the daughter of a good friend of her who had recently died, the girl needed work - she could try herself as a model. Lemoine and Falcone found that Marie Anna remotely reminds them of Didro himself and, perhaps, is his illegitimate daughter, a “mistake of youth”, but no one dared to discuss it out loud, all the more soon the situation became more interesting - the young Marie Anna was phenomenally talented in portrait sculpture. And Falconet undertook to teach her.

Golitsyn was amazed when Falcone demanded that 18-year-old Marie Anna Collot go with him to Russia, but when the girl made a bust of the Russian envoy, doubts disappeared. She will travel with Russia to Falcone, and there, at the request of Catherine, she will be admitted to the honorary members of the Academy after she makes a bust of the empress. Peter's head for The Bronze Horseman, too, will be designed by Marie Anna Collot.

In Russia, envious Falcone will spread various rumors about him and Marie Anna. It was gossiped, for example, that all the busts of celebrities that Collo was very famous for did Falcone instead. And of course, despite the 32-year age difference, they were suspected of a secret love affair - the sculpture “Pygmalion and Galatea” was cited as evidence, they said that it was such a symbolic self-portrait of Falcone and his students. But Falcone annoyed these suspicions with irritation: later Marie Anna would marry his son, artist Pierre Etienne Falcone.

Work on the statue of Peter lasted 12 years, and these were not the easiest years, although at first everything went smoothly.Catherine II Falconet was welcomed warmly, between them several years there was a lively correspondence relating to each stage in the creation of the monument. The empress was interested in everything: where the monument would be placed, what Peter would be dressed in, where his hand would point, what should symbolize a bear's skin instead of a traditional saddle, and for this purpose he placed a snake at the feet of Petrov’s horse. But Falcone met fierce resistance to many of his ideas in the person of the general Ivan Betsky, President of the Imperial Academy of Arts - he was sure that the monument would be created according to his, Betsky's design, and Falconet would become only a performer.

Disputes arose at every stage. Betskoi wanted the imperial horse to solemnly march like a horse under the emperor Marcus Aurelius - Falconet rejected statics, he sculpted the horse from life, forcing General Melissino, similar to Peter I, to jump on a horse a hundred times on a specially constructed embankment. The sculptor was insistently offered to surround the monument to Peter with allegorical figures of emperor benefactors - and Falcone argued that Peter was self-sufficient and did not need such "supports": “I will confine myself to a statue of this hero, whom I do not interpret either as a great commander or as a winner, although he, of course, was both. The personality of the creator-legislator is much higher ... ". Falconet's complex engineering ideas also met with resistance - to bring for the pedestal a giant natural boulder, the so-called thunder-stone from the vicinity of St. Petersburg, to weight the horse’s croup and place a snake at his feet to ensure stability to the monument.

Falcone left Russia even before the monument was erected and solemnly opened to the public. Dissatisfaction plagued him again. Catherine was tired of reconciling Falconet and Betsky in absentia and stopped responding to the sculptor's letters. Viewers, too, behaved, from Falcone's point of view, strangely: “I am in full public power, my workshop is jam-packed. It’s a little strange, at least in my eyes, that none of the locals flocking to me speaks a word to me, as if I weren’t in the world ... " Frustrated by the attitude to his work, Falcone went to The Hague, where his old acquaintance and friend, the former French ambassador Golitsyn, had lived for several years.

Having released several works on the theory of sculpture in Holland, Falcone will return to France. The last 10 years of his life, he will not be able to create anything, being partially paralyzed after a stroke. Until the last days of his life, his daughter-in-law and student, Marie-Anna Collot, will look after the ingenious sculptor with a complex character.

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