CAFFIÉRI, Jean-Jacques
(b. 1725, Paris, d. 1792, Paris)


French sculptor, part of a French family of artists of Italian descent. Most of the family members were employed as sculptors in the naval yards (Le Havre and Brest). Jean-Jacques Caffiéri, became one of the most eminent sculptors of the second half of the 18th century, producing monumental works as well as small-scale allegorical groups and some of the liveliest and most elegant portrait busts of the time.

Jean-Jacques Caffiéri was the son of Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755). He trained with his father and later with Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne II, whose lively portrait style he absorbed. In 1748 he won the Prix de Rome with the bas-relief Cain Killing Abel, and in 1749 he left for Rome; he remained in Italy until 1753, possibly travelling to Naples in that year, where he was disappointed in his desire to participate in the sculptural decoration of Luigi Vanvitelli's royal palace at Caserta. While in Italy he modelled a number of portrait busts, most notably those of the Abbé Leblanc (1751) and Benedict XIV (1751), but his principal Roman work was the large stucco high-relief group of the Trinity crowning the pediment of the high altar of S. Luigi dei Francesi, which was commissioned in 1752 by the French ambassador, the Abbé de Canilliac. Executed with the advice of Charles-Joseph Natoire, the director of the Académie de France in Rome, it shows the influence of the Roman Baroque.

Though later to be touched by fashionable sentimentalism, Caffiéri remained basically a Baroque sculptor and his "morceau de reception" at the Académie in 1759, the almost awkwardly vigorous River, shows his true character. His facility was proclaimed, and in the following thirty years he was to be considerably employed, by the Crown for the Invalides, as well as for the 'grands hommes' series, by Madame du Barry, and - most memorably - by the Comedie Francaise on busts of dramatists. In the midst of letter-writing, pleas for pensions, complaints about lodgings, Caffieri continued to press for further commissions from the Crown, itself none too firmly placed after the fall of the Bastille. He remained devoted to this source of patronage and as late as 1791 was writing directly to the king urging the commissioning of a statue of Lebrun.