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Carved Relief
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Signed by Aubert-Henri-Joseph Parent
French, Paris, 1789
Limewood
2 ft. 3 3/8 in. x 1 ft. 6 7/8 in. x 2 3/8 in.
84.SD.76

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This virtuoso carving, produced from a single plank of limewood, demonstrates the accomplished skills of its maker, Aubert Parent, who came to prominence in 1777 when one of his panels was accepted as a gift by Louis XVI, king of France. The relief shows a vase of flowers, including poppies, roses, lilac, lilies-of-the-valley, and daisies, on a plinth. Parent used various levels of carving to make the design seem more lifelike. For example, the flattened "carved" acanthus leaves on the vase contrast sharply with the "real" leaves of the roses and grapevine surrounding it. Parent once noted that the delicate lilac blossoms in particular were extremely difficult to carve, as they had to be worked from both above and below without breakage.

The lower part of the scene--a pair of birds defending their nest from a grass snake and a slug--alludes to parental responsibility and, indirectly, to the duty of the French monarchy toward its subjects at the beginning of the French Revolution.

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