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Marie Serre

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

Sculptures
France, 17th and 18th centuries

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie

In his hometown of Perpignan, in 1695, the painter Hyacinthe Rigaud did a portrait of his mother, Marie Serre, from several different angles. Coysevox sculpted the marble from these studies in 1706. Rigaud bequeathed it to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1743, along with the two painted studies, now in the Department of Painting at the Louvre.

From royal busts to female portraits

The painter Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) was extremely fond of his mother, Marie Serre, who, having been widowed prematurely, devoted herself to her son's education. In 1695 he returned to his native city of Perpignan to visit her. He came away with a portrait of her in front view (Normandy, private collection) and two three-quarter-profile views (Louvre), as studies for a marble bust, which he asked his friend Antoine Coysevox to execute. This was not an uncommon practice.
Rigaud's main inspiration was Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), the great Flemish portraitist who settled in England, where he had painted three views of the English monarch Charles I, from which Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), the seminal genius of Italian baroque sculpture in the 17th century, was to sculpt the king's bust. This sculptor also did a portrait bust of Richelieu (Louvre) from a triple portrait (National Gallery, London) painted by the French artist Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674). A commission for a portrait bust of an ordinary person was a rare occurrence, however; in addition, portrait busts of women at this time were very infrequent, apart from funerary effigies or portraits of married couples. Coysevox did not carve the bust until 1706 (eleven years later!). A leading sculptor during the reign of Louis XIV, creator of numerous statues at Versailles, he was also renowned for his portraits of the king, distinguished members of his court (Louis II de Bourbon, Le Grand Condé, Colbert, Vauban) and artists (the painters Le Brun and Antoine Coypel).

A formal portrait

Rigaud had instilled much emotion into the painting of his ageing mother, a mature woman of around sixty, with slightly bloated features. Her grave, dignified face stood out against her Catalan costume, a simple white blouse and black skirt. Coysevox sculpted a formal portrait, revealing all his skill as a carver of marble. Since he did not know the sitter personally, it was a formal interpretation, whose rather frozen expression has erased all the tenderness of the portrait by her son. However, Coysevox sought to add vitality to the bust by carving a hint of a smile on her lips and, above all, by giving the costume a soft, lively appearance: the veil cascading onto her shoulder, the scarf draped around her neck tied with ribbons in a bow on her chest, and the ruching on her bodice.

Brief history of the bequest

Rigaud seems to have been very proud of this bust, which, in his will of 1707, he had left to the Grand Dauphin (son of Louis XIV and heir to the throne). In 1743, since the latter was deceased, Rigaud gave it to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture together with the two painted studies. Confiscated in 1793, the bust was sent to the Musée des Monuments Français (1794-1816), then to the Musée Historique de Versailles, before entering the Louvre in 1896.

Bibliography

Keller-Dorian Georges, Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720), catalogue raisonné of his works, with an introduction by Paul Vitry, Paris, 1920, vol. II, pp. 44-45.
Bresc-Bautier Geneviève, Sculpture française XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, coll. "Notices d'histoire de l'art", no. 3, 1980, cat. 4.
Baron Françoise, Bresc-Bautier Geneviève, Gaborit Jean-René (under the direction of), Portraits sculptés XVe-XVIIIe siècle. Collections du Musée du Louvre et des Musées des Beaux-Arts de Dijon et d'Orléans, exh. cat. Dijon, 11 April-10 August 1992, Orléans, 27 September-14 December 1992, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1992, p. 44.
Portraits du Louvre, exh. cat. Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 1991, pp. 154-155.

Technical description

  • Antoine Coysevox (Lyon, 1640-Paris, 1720)

    Marie Serre

    1706

  • Marble

    H. 70 cm; W. 59 cm; D. 28 cm

  • Collection of the Royal Academy, 1743; confiscated as property of émigrés during the French Revolution, 1793; transferred to the Museum, 1796-97; Musée des Monuments Français, 1794-1816; Musée Historique de Versailles; entered the Louvre, 1896

    L.P. 502

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Girardon Crypt
    Room 20

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