Models of 1758 and 1762
Pair of Sèvres biscuit figures of bathing nymphs.
La Baigneuse A naked nymph about to enter the water. Height 35.5 cm. Incised B for Bachelier.
Falconet exhibited the marble at the Salon in 1757, and it is now in the Louvre. It may derive some inspiration from François Lemoyne’s painting of 1724, which belonged to Etienne-Michel Bouret, one of the original shareholders in the factory. The engraving (by Laurent Cars, 1731), was not bought by the factory until 1764, and it was used for a coloured reserve on several occasions, such as for a vase à bâtons rompus of about 1770 (see Wallace c271). Falconet himself may have been responsible for the moulds of this figure which was first produced at Sèvres in 1758.
La Baigneuse aux roseaux A nymph leaving the water, holding a towel and surrounded by reeds. Height 34.4 cm. Incised B for Bachelier.
This was modelled by Falconet in 1762 to act as a pair to the original Baigneuse. It was first called La Baigneuse Nouvelle, and makes a particularly good pair with the other Baigneuse. This one is just leaving the water through the reeds and drying herself with a towel.
It was formerly thought that it was modelled by Boizot in 1774 (Bourgeois & Lechevallier-Chevignard : pl.15, no.93). In fact, Boizot modelled the Baigneuse à l’éponge in that year.
A soft-paste example of the Baigneuse aux roseaux, incised F, is in the Sèvres Museum (Falconet: p. 169, described as in a private collection in the catalogue but purchased from us during the exhibition). Another is in the Manchester City Art Galleries (Porcelain from Europe, a catalogue of the collections at Manchester City Art Galleries, Manchester 1986, no. 93).
The first example was purchased as a pair with the other baigneuse in December 1762 by Bertin, who was then contrôleur général des finances. He also bought two matching bases at the same time. Falconet himself bought five unspecified baigneuses in 1763. Louis XV purchased two for Bellevue in 1763.
From about 1769 the factory produced reduced size versions of biscuit figures, initially probably for the table centrepiece for the wedding feast of the future Louis XVI to the Archduchess Marie-Antoinette. See Pierre Ennès, “Le surtout de mariage en porcelaine de Sèvres, du Dauphin, 1769-1770”, in Revue de l’Art, 76/1987, pp. 63-73.