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Work Canon Pingré, Alexandre-Gui Pingré (1711-1792), librarian of the abbey of Sainte Geneviève, an astronomer and royal geographer

Department of Sculptures: France, 17th and 18th centuries

Canon Alexandre-Gui Pingré (1711-96)

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

France, 17th and 18th centuries

Montalbetti Valérie

Caffieri, Houdon's great rival in 18th-century portrait busts, sculpted this jovial face of the canon Pingré, a scholar for whom science was by no means synonymous with gravity. The sculptor, here at the height of his powers, has captured the essence of the geographer, suggesting both his lively mind and sensual enjoyment of life.

An expressive portrait

This lively, cheerful, mischievous face is that of the canon Pingré, the royal geographer, an astronomer and a member of the Academy of Science. Caffieri put all his verve into this highly expressive portrait, which beams with witty joviality. The scholar's lively mind shines through in the sensuous lips, bulging forehead, and twinkling eyes. Caffieri has refused to embellish his model, meticulously recording the jowls, double chin, and fat snub nose of a man who enjoys good living.

A sculptor specialized in portraiture

Caffieri made a specialization of portraying famous men, whether his contemporaries, such as theater director Charles Simon Favart (in the Louvre), or predecessors - the playwright Nivelle de La Chaussée and the writer Helvetius (in the Louvre). He was in direct competition with Jean-Antoine Houdon, but had the advantage of being commissioned by the count of Angiviller, Director of the Royal Buildings, to sculpt a series of France's illustrious men. Two such works were marble statues of great 17th-century French playwrights: tragedy represented by Corneille (1779, Louvre), and comedy by Molière (1787, Louvre).

History of the terracotta bust

This terracotta bust in the Louvre was exhibited at the Salon of 1789. It is a retouched preparatory sculpture after the original plaster which Caffieri gave, in 1788, to the Sainte-Geneviève library (in situ), where Pingré was the official canon and librarian. The terracotta bust was later rediscovered in the Paris Observatory and allocated to the Louvre in 1909.


Vitry Paul, "Le buste de l'astronome Pingré, par J.-J. Caffieri au musée du Louvre", in Bulletin des musées de France, Paris, 1910, n 1, p. 20-22.
Boinet Amédée, "Les bustes de Caffieri de la bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève", in GBA, 1921, p. 144-146.
Bresc-Bautier Geneviève, Sculpture française XVIIIe siècle (École du Louvre, Notices d'histoire de l'art, n 3), Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1980, n 29.

Technical description

  • Jean-Jacques CAFFIERI (Paris, 1725 - Paris, 1792)

    Canon Alexandre-Gui Pingré (1711-96)


  • Terracotta

    H. 0.51 m; W. 0.51 m; D. 0.34 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1909 , 1909

    R.F. 1496

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Room 220
    Display case 3

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