Portrait Bust of a Man

Jean-Antoine Houdon (French, 1741–1828)


Overall: 34.9 x 27.9 cm (13 3/4 x 11 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Stone; white marble with separate white marble socle

Not On View





In a bust half life-size a man of about fifty is portrayed looking ahead and slightly to his left. He wears a wig with two long horizontal curls over each ear and the rest of the hair pulled back and tied at the nape of his neck with a bow. His eyes, which have a lively, amused expression, are deeply cut with a small circle of marble left just under the lid to indicate the irises. The mouth is tightly closed with the beginning of a smile expressed at the corners. The flesh on the cheeks and neck is loose, the soft folds protruding slightly over his high, finely pleated stock. A double-edged ruffled jabot and a plain vest are worn under a simply cut coat of a heavy material with a wide notched collar. The semicircular truncation of the bust cuts through the sitter’s upper arms and mid-torso.


Signed and dated on back of truncation: houdon,f.1786.


1925, La Bouillerie, Crosmière, Sarthe, France; December 4, 1925, La Bouillerie sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, lot 17 bis [see note 1]. David David-Weill (b. 1871 - d. 1952), Paris and Neuilly-sur-Seine, France; 1937, sold by David-Weill to Wildenstein and Company, New York [see note 3]; October 28, 1943, sold by Wildenstein to Forsyth Wickes (b. 1876 - d. 1964), New York and Newport, RI; 1965, bequest of Forsyth Wickes to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 24, 1965)

[1] Sold as "Petit buste ... représentant Monsieur de Biré ... Appartient à N. de X...". See "The Forsyth Wickes Collection" (Boston, 1972), p. 157, cat. no. 104.

[2] See "Sale of the David-Weill Collection," Art News, February 27, 1937, pp. 12, 20.

Credit Line

Bequest of Forsyth Wickes—The Forsyth Wickes Collection