COLLOT, Marie-Anne
(b. 1748, Paris, d. 1821, Nancy)

Biography

French sculptor. Exclusively a portrait sculptor, the busts she produced in Paris in 1765 and 1766 show such an extraordinary precociousness that it has been suggested they are the results of a collaboration with her first teacher, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne II. In her portrait of Étienne-Noël Damilaville (terracotta; Paris, Louvre), she succeeded in expressing both the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by this forgotten philosopher.

Some time before 1766 Collot became the pupil of Étienne-Maurice Falconet, who in that year took her, abandoned by her family, to St Petersburg, where he had been called by Catherine the Great to execute the famous bronze equestrian monument to Peter the Great. Collot was soon granted portrait sittings by Empress Catherine, of whom she made a number of busts, some wreathed in laurels all'antica, and some wearing the kokoshnik, or Russian peasant headdress.

At Catherine's request Collot executed a lively and characterful portrait bust of Falconet (marble, 1773; St Petersburg, Hermitage) and busts and medallions of Grand Duke Paul and his Wife (e.g. marble bust, 1769; St Petersburg, Hermitage). Among busts of the intimate friends of the Empress is, most notably, the charming portrait of the daughter of the British ambassador, Mary Cathcart (plaster; Paris, Louvre). Collot's historical busts of Henry IV and Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully (both after 1768; both St Petersburg, Hermitage), commissioned by Catherine for her museum at the Hermitage, and based on models derived by Lemoyne from portraits by Frans Pourbus II, are much inferior. However, their contemporary success no doubt encouraged Collot to present a model for the colossal head of the statue of Peter the Great (plaster; St Petersburg, Russian Museum), after the Empress had rejected three by Falconet. Collot's model was used for the monument, which was unveiled in 1782.

In 1777 Collot married her master's son, Pierre-Étienne Falconet (1741-1791) and the following year rejoined him in France with her daughter. However, ill-treated by her husband, she fled to The Hague, to live with her father-in-law. Busts of Dr Camper (bronze; Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen) and of the Stadholder William V and his Wife (The Hague, Mauritshuis), the latter finished in Paris in 1782, date from this visit and were her last works. From 1783 to 1791 she nursed the paralysed Étienne-Maurice Falconet and then retired to Lorraine, where she died in obscurity.