Michel, Pierre-Joseph (1737 - 1812)

Young Woman Reading a Letter

Exposé en salle

Support and technique : Terre cuite
Size : H. 40 x l. 31.5 x P. 29 cm
Inventory number : J 239
Signature : Au revers, en bas du rocher : "P michel"
Marque de collection : À l'arrière : "F. 22"

This medium-sized work, a rare example of this sculptor's work in the collections, is a terracotta in the round sculpture of a slender subject. A young woman sitting on a rock, her legs crossed, is conscientiously reading a letter, which she is holding in her hands. Although the content of this letter is unknown to us, the elegant eroticism of the uncovered breast underlined by a drapery and the presence at the feet of the young woman of a quiver and a couple of kissing doves are all simply allusions to Venus.

The technique is virtuoso and delicate. The artist has a very unique way of shaping volumes, creating a drape with a variety of folds of varying depth with his chisel and gouges, highlighting the female body. The movement is flexible and instinctive, enhancing the model's curvaceousness. The reader's hairstyle highlights her face, which is a radiant echo of the contemporary standard model for the female face: a straight nose, rounded chin, small mouth and oval face shape, found in portraits by François Boucher or sculptures by Etienne-Maurice Falconet (L'Hiver (Winter), 1771, Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum). The terracotta medium fully adapts to the artist's desire to make his subject’s ethereal flesh lifelike, if not palpable. The smooth appearance of the surface accentuates the sculpture’s overall elegance.

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