Height: 13 in. (33 cm.)
Marks: incised F for Étienne Maurice Falconet
The sculptor Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (1704–1778) was first commissioned to execute a sculpture of Louis XV in 1730, for a bronze equestrian statue for the Place Royale at Bordeaux. He completed several more monuments to the king, who regularly ordered the sculptor to portray him in busts. Antoine-Nicolas Dézallier d’Argenville, 18th-century art historian, suggested that these portrayals were updated every three or four years until the king’s death, in order to represent him in the most accurate likeness. Lemoyne was noted for his ability to capture Louis XV with the greatest fidelity to his actual appearance. Lemoyne’s biographer actually suggested that the sculptor created three to four new versions each year—though this is probably an exaggeration or a misinterpretation of Argenville’s claim, as it seems unlikely that the sculptor could work at such speed.
Six marble busts of Louis XV by Lemoyne are recorded, only two of which survive, one in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like the present porcelain bust, the Metropolitan Museum’s marble bust depicts the monarch with his head turned to the left, his hair tied in a bow, wearing armor partially covered by a sash, pinned with the Order of the Holy Spirit (Saint Esprit). The busts, both marble and porcelain, are executed with a hollow back. The model after which the porcelain is based was made by Lemoyne in 1760.
Étienne Maurice Falconet (1716–91) served as the director of the sculpture studio at Sèvres from 1757 to 1766 and is considered the greatest of the factory’s modelers. In 1760 the first two Sèvres busts after the Lemoyne model were given to the king himself and to Madame de Pompadour.