Falconet Etienne: biography, personal life and famous works

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Falconet Etienne: biography, personal life and famous works
Falconet Etienne: biography, personal life and famous works

Video: Falconet Etienne: biography, personal life and famous works

Video: Falconet Etienne: biography, personal life and famous works
Video: The Life and Times of an Immortal Alchemist 2023, October

French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falcone has a special place in the history of art. First of all, he is known as the author of the monument to Peter the Great in St. Petersburg - a monument that has no equal in world sculpture. Falcone was not only an outstanding artist, but also a theoretical writer. This man possessed a multifaceted bright talent and was a master of a huge range. The work of Etienne Maurice Falcone proceeded in an atmosphere of pre-revolutionary sentiments and disputes about new ways of developing art. We will tell about the life path of the sculptor and his main works in the article.


Etienne Maurice Falcone was born in Paris on 12/1/1716. His family came from the French province of Savoy, his mother was the daughter of a shoemaker, and his father was an apprentice carpenter. Like other children from the third estate, Etienne had a poor childhood, from an early age he had to earn his own bread. No wonder that at eighteen he could barely read and write. Yes, I learned this on my own. Parents believed that the artisan guy does not need so much knowledge: the main thing is to master the craft,was honest and did not forget to go to church on Sundays.

Falconet first learned how to handle sculptural material in the workshop of his uncle, who was a marble maker. The future sculptor even then had dexterous hands and drew well. It is not known how the biography of Etienne Falcone would have developed further if one day he had not plucked up the courage to show his drawings to Jean-Louis Lemoine, a well-known court portrait sculptor at that time. The young man took the first image that came across and went to the studio.

Under Lemoine's wing

Later in his memoirs, Falcone described his first meeting with Jean-Louis. When he knocked on the door, a short old man in a dressing gown, covered in plaster and clay, appeared on the threshold. Étienne handed him his drawing without a word. The old man looked at the picture for a few minutes and then asked if the guy had other jobs and how long he had been doing this.

Falcone portrait
Falcone portrait

On the same day, Etienne Falcone was accepted into Lemoine's atelier as an assistant. He had monstrous gaps in education, but had a great curiosity and a wonderful memory. These qualities, along with the habit of independent judgment and philosophical understanding of everything that happens, contributed to the fact that Falcone later turned into one of the most original masters of art.

However, then it was still far away. Jean-Louis taught the young man the old fashioned way, giving as many exercises as possible. For weeks and months, Etienne Falcone copied old engravings, copied ancient Roman ornaments, studied nature, imitatedantique busts, heads and torsos. Together with Lemoine, the young sculptor participated in the decoration of the Versailles Park, and there for the first time he saw the works of Pierre Puget, an outstanding French sculptor.

Jean-Louis Lemoine remained a close friend and teacher of Falcone until his death, and he, in turn, forever retained feelings of respect and gratitude for his mentor.

Paris Academy

Etienne Maurice spent almost all his life in Paris, and this city became for him a school of artistic skill. Mainly Falcone's talent developed on the basis of national culture. In 1744, at the age of twenty-eight, he decided to enter the Paris Academy of Arts and for this he completed his first plaster work, Milo of Croton.

In this sculpture, Etienne Maurice Falcone reflected the theatricality and dynamics inherent in the plasticity of the Baroque, but at the same time showed the classic clarity of form. Members of the Academy and the public took the job coldly, but nevertheless he was accepted into the educational institution.

Ten years later, for the translation of Milo of Croton into marble, Falcone received the title of academician, which gave him a number of certain privileges: the right to receive an annual pension and royal orders, the provision of a free workshop in the Louvre, and the title of nobleman.

sculptor Etienne Falcone
sculptor Etienne Falcone

Working at the Sevres manufactory

From 1753 and for the next ten years, Etienne Maurice took part in the reconstruction and decoration of the church of St. Roch. At the same time, in 1757, he beganwork at the Sevres porcelain manufactory as director of a fashion workshop. There the sculptor met the French painter, decorator and engraver Francois Boucher. At first, Falcone made models according to his drawings, and then began to work independently. It was during this period that he was able to identify the special artistic properties of French porcelain and subsequently used them brilliantly.

The patroness of the manufactory was the Marquise de Pompadour, and for her the sculptor created many biscuit figurines depicting mythological characters. These works by Etienne Maurice Falcone immediately became fashionable and delighted the public.

The Threatening Cupid

In 1757, the Marquise de Pompadour commissioned the sculptor to make a statue of the god of love Cupid to decorate the boudoir in her Parisian mansion. The ancient myth of Cupid was especially popular in French art of the eighteenth century.

Etienne Falcone portrayed Cupid as a cheerful, playful child, whose appearance emanates spontaneity and sincere joy. He sits at ease on a cloud and, smiling and as if warning or threatening, he is preparing to pull a destructive arrow from his quiver in order to shoot it at the intended victim. A sly look, a soft tilt of the head, a finger attached to the lips and a sly smile - all add to the liveliness of the composition.

Threatening Cupid
Threatening Cupid

The sculptor conveyed the charm of a plump childish body and natural childish grace with modest, but very expressive means. Falcone worked the marble so perfectly that the curly soft hair and silky skin of Cupidperceived as illusory. With the same skill, the sculptor depicted wings with delicate feathers behind the child's back and curved petals of a rose lying at his feet.

The seeming ease and simplicity with which Etienne Maurice solved the compositional problem speaks of his high professionalism. With the power of his talent, Falcone made a plastic form from cold marble, filled with vital breath.


No less attention and admiration in the salon of 1757 was awarded to the statue "Bather", depicting a nymph dipping her feet into the water. This piece by Etienne Falcone is very finely done, without the slightest hint of vulgarity.

Flow and smooth lines of a girl's figure with small breasts and sloping shoulders. She stands, leaning on a high stump, and, holding a light fabric lightly at her hip, she tries the water with her toes. Due to the slight tilt of the head, the flexible line of the bather's neck is beautifully emphasized, and her face retains a childish roundness. So, it would seem that the usual features of a girl under the chisel of the master become poetically expressive.


Falconet's true masterpiece was the statue "Winter", which he began in the mid-1750s. commissioned by Madame de Pompadour and completed in 1771. The sculpture depicts a seated girl, personifying winter. Her smoothly falling attire, like a cover of snow, covers the flowers at her feet. The appearance of the young lady is full of dreamy quiet sadness, the embodiment of youth, purity and some special feminine charm. The allusions of winter are the signs of the zodiac, which are depicted on the sides of the pedestal, as well asa bowl broken from frozen water at the girl's feet.

In the statue "Winter" Etienne Falcone brilliantly combined the features of the Rococo style that prevailed at that time, and his realistic aspirations. The image of the girl is conveyed expressively and freely, there is both vitality and immediacy in it. Thanks to the rich play of shadow and light, as well as the confident and soft modeling of marble, the illusion of a living surface of the body is achieved.

Subsequently, the sculptor in his works repeatedly returned to the images of naked women and created many variations of the image of the female body, which captivated with a subtle perception of nature and poetry.

sculpture winter
sculpture winter

Trends of classicism

In the early 1760s. classicism began to be traced in the work of Falcone. The sculptor was torn between the requests of the court to perform aesthetic and elegant works and his own desire to create moralizing serious sculptures. At first, the features of classicism were seen in the statue "Tender Sadness". They were also characteristic of "Pygmalion and Galatea" - a work that caused a triumph in the salon of 1763.

In 1764, the Marquise de Pompadour died, and Falcone lost his main customer and patron. In 1765, Etienne turned 49 years old, and he was never satisfied with his work. All his life the sculptor dreamed of creating a monumental work, and soon he succeeded.

The Bronze Horseman

Etienne Maurice Falcone made his dream come true not just anywhere, but in Russia. On the advice of the philosopher Denis Diderot, with whom the sculptor became friends back in 1750, the EmpressCatherine II invited him to make an equestrian monument to Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. The sculptor made the initial wax sketch in Paris: the hero on horseback jumps over a rock, which symbolizes the obstacles overcome.

Falconet wanted to create a composition that was deeply conceived: not only a monument to the ruler, but also a monument to the entire Petrine era; not only a statue of the commander, but also the image of a man who inextricably linked fate with the history of his people.

Work on the monument to Peter I

In October 1766, the sculptor arrived in Russia and began work on a plaster model of the statue. Along with Falcone came his eighteen-year-old student Marie Anne Collot and the carver Fontaine. The sculptor thought that he was leaving France for eight years - this was the period stipulated by the contract with Catherine for the execution, casting and installation of the Bronze Horseman. Etienne Falcone had no doubt that he would meet the deadline. However, things turned out differently.

Etienne Falcone
Etienne Falcone

At first everything went well. The Empress approved both the design of the monument and the laconic inscription on it, composed by the sculptor: "Catherine II erected Peter the Great." True, the ruler removed the word "erected" from the inscription, making it even simpler.

For a year and a half, the master worked selflessly on the model, refining the details of the composition and scrupulously calculating the proportionality of the parts. Landing, gestures, the rider's face - everything was performed with maximum expressiveness. Falcone lived only this work and put into it all his skills and all the heat of his soul. May day has finally arrived1770, when the plaster model of the sculpture was put on public display.

Casting statue of Peter

The President of the Academy of Arts Lieutenant-General Betskoy criticized the work of Etienne Falcone and literally plagued the sculptor with his remarks. The reason for the enmity was the fact that Falcone still initially refused to execute the detailed project of the monument developed by Betsky.

In search of support, the master turned to Ekaterina, but she was less and less interested in the progress of work and less and less responsive to his complaints. Time passed, but the casting of the statue did not start. By the summer of 1774, it turned out that Benoit Ersman, invited as a caster, was not able to cope with the task set by Etienne, after which he himself decided to undertake to cast the monument. At the age of 58, Falcone sat down at his textbooks and began to study the description of the work on casting equestrian statues.

Then, together with his assistant Emelyan Khailov, the sculptor did not leave the workshop for hours. The first casting was not entirely successful: in the process, the flame was too strong and incinerated the top of the mold. The rider's head was damaged, the sculptor remade it three times, but he could not create an image that corresponded to his plan. Marie Ann Collot saved the situation: the student brilliantly completed what, for some reason, her teacher could not do.

And then the day came when the work was finished. The “Bronze Horseman” by Etienne Maurice Falcone, as Pushkin later called the sculpture, had only to be strengthened on a pedestal, which had long been prepared on Senate Square.

opening of the monument to Peterfirst
opening of the monument to Peterfirst

Return to France

The great master did not wait for the installation of the statue. Catherine cooled towards Falcone, relations with Betsky were spoiled, and he could not continue to stay in St. Petersburg. Etienne collected drawings and books and after twelve years in Russia he returned to his homeland. From now on, he no longer created sculptures, but devoted himself entirely to writing treatises on art.

The monument to Peter I was officially opened on Senate Square on 1782-07-08. The statue of the king pacifying the horse, on a pedestal made of solid stone in the form of a wave, loomed with an expressive silhouette against the background of St. Petersburg and fell in love with people. Subsequently, the Bronze Horseman became a part of the city and one of its most revered masterpieces.

Falconet was not invited to the opening, however, later the Empress sent him two medals minted in honor of such an event. Having received them, the sculptor burst into tears: even then he understood that he had completed the work of his life.

Six months later, in May 1783, Etienne Maurice Falcone suffered an apoplexy that led to paralysis. For the next ten years, the sculptor was bedridden. He was cared for by Marie Anne Collot, who had by then married the son of the sculptor Pierre Etienne Falcone. 1791-24-01 the life of the great master ended in Paris.

Bronze Horseman
Bronze Horseman

Falconet had an amazing fate. He came to Russia, created a brilliant monument, left and died. Now in France it is almost forgotten. But in our country this sculptor will always be remembered, because his hands created the symbol of the Russianstates. Horse rider. A man who harnessed the elements.