The Kiss Marble Bust Sculpture After Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828)

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Our client's antique marble sculpture of Le Baiser Donné (The Kiss Bestowed) after the original model by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) measures 19 by 15 by 8 inches.  In very good condition, with scuffs, scratches, nicks and small losses.

One of Houdon's most attractive sculptures, few fine copies such as ours exist, due probably to its complex composition. For an original example from Houdon's studio of similar scale, see Christie's lot 104 from their London sale on December 5, 2005.


--L. Reau, Houdon - sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris, 1964, p. 22, no. 54.

-- R. Wenley, French Bronzes in the Wallace collection, London, 2002, pp. 92-3.

--Washington, National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Musée et Domaine National du Château de Versailles, Jean-Antoine Houdon - Sculptor of the Enlightenment, between 4 May 2003-25 Jan. 2004.

The essay from the referenced Christie's lot reads as follows:

Le Baiser donné is without doubt Jean-Antoine Houdon's most erotically charged composition. Originally conceived in circa 1772, when Houdon sent a plaster version to the duke of Saxe-Gotha in Germany, this highly ingenious double-bust depicts two idealised young lovers bound by a chain of roses in a sensual embrace. The visual vocabulary that Houdon used in the conception of this group is rich and symbolic; the boy's hair is tied in a ribbon, the girl's is braided and bound by a string of pearls, combined they are the symbolic attributes of Venus and imply the idea of Profane Love.

The composition is both highly imaginative and dynamic and, as with a number of Houdon's other compositions, clearly draws inspiration from classical prototypes - in this instance the Cupid and Psyche in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, which was discovered in 1749 - 15 years before Houdon's arrival in Rome. There can be no doubt that he would have seen, and been entranced by, this monument to youthful abandon. This group, like Houdon's Le Baiser donné, is mesmerising and intriguing. Cupid is depicted without wings or attributes - he is in fact a mere child - thus, no longer distinguishable as the envoy of love he actually becomes the physical act of it. There is a similar feeling of youthful and profane love in Houdon's composition, but the lovers are depicted slightly older, more idealised and with the female figure seductively exposing her right breast.

The model that Houdon created was, unsurprisingly, extremely well received, which encouraged him and his workshop not only to produce a number of high quality versions but to also conceive a pendant for it called Le Baiser rendu. The vast majority of these reproductions were reduced scale versions in bronze cast by Houdon's former pupil Thomire, but a small number were also executed in marble for the more distinguished patrons. Louis-Philippe-Joseph d'Orleans, for example, commissioned a marble from Houdon in 1779 while the wealthy banker Jean Girardot de Marigny possessed both variants (Houdon exhibition catalogue, no. 41, p. 239). Mathies (ibid., p. 240) notes that a pair busts of Le Baiser donné and Le Baiser rendu still survive in the Wildenstein's collection in New York, however, differently dated 1778 and 1780 respectively - the latter bearing the same inscription as the present lot and thought not to be by Houdon himself. He suggests that the New York marbles are possibly the ones offered in the Strauss sale, 7 February 1890, nos. 1-2 that were supposedly ordered from Houdon by the duc De Luynes and subsequently bequeathed to the duc de Narbonne. Thus, since the Wildenstein's possess three busts - two of Le Baiser donné (one of which is the present lot) and one of Le Baiser rendu - it is possible that the New York marbles have been incorrectly paired and that the two marbles dated 1780 are possibly the original workshop production pair.

Item Details

Reference #:
Antiques (approx100yrs)
(Width x Height X Depth)
15.00 x 19.00 x 8.00
Very Good