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Bust of Alexis-Jean-Eustache Taitbout
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Jean-Jacques Caffieri
French, Paris, 1762
Terracotta
with socle
96.SC.344

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Rising from a rounded socle, Alexis-Jean-Eustache Taitbout's head turns. A relaxed smile softens his bulbous features, and his eyes are sparkling and alive. His prominent nose, furrowed forehead, bushy eyebrows, and soft, aging flesh suggest a sympathetic, kind disposition. To suggest informality, Jean-Jacques Caffieri left the surface rough and rendered the sitter in casual garb. Caffieri, who was known for his portrait busts of contemporary celebrities, especially those of writers and artists, represented Taitbout as one of the literati , even outfitting him in the loose blouse worn by artists and writers. He modeled the bust in terracotta, taking advantage of the medium's flexibility to render a portrait striking in its spontaneity. The intimacy of this portrait is characteristic of the Enlightenment interest in psychology. Indeed, the portrait's psychological penetration suggests that the sitter or a close intimate probably commissioned it.

Taitbout was an aristocrat, a knight of the order of Saint-Lazare, who served as French general consul to Alger, Algeria and then to Naples. The sculptor likely modeled the portrait from life and chose to memorialize Taitbout's warm humanity.

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