COUSTOU, Guillaume II
(b. 1716, Paris, d. 1777, Paris)

Biography

Sculptor, part of a French family of sculptors. François Coustou (d 1690), a wood-carver and brother-in-law of the sculptor Antoine Coysevox, had two sons who became sculptors, Nicolas Coustou (1658-1733) and Guillaume Coustou I (1677-1746), and a daughter, Eléonore, whose son was the sculptor Claude Francin. The brothers moved from their native Lyon to train with Coysevox in Paris, where they spent the greater part of their careers. They worked on royal projects, notably at the château of Marly, Yvelines, which was the original location of Guillaume Coustou's celebrated Marly Horses now in the Louvre, Paris. Of Guillaume's sons, Charles Pierre Coustou (1721-97) was active as an architect, and Guillaume Coustou II (1716-1777) became a sculptor, like his uncle and father spending his early career in Rome and returning to work in France but also contributing to the statuary for Sanssouci, Potsdam.

Having studied with his father, Guillaume Coustou II won the Prix de Rome in 1735 and was at the Académie de France in Rome in 1736-40. In 1742 he was received (reçu) as a member of the Académie Royale, presenting a seated statue of Vulcan (marble; Paris, Louvre), and he went on to pursue a successful official career. His eclectic style mirrored the evolution of French sculpture in the mid-18th century, ranging from the Baroque of the Apotheosis of St Francis Xavier (marble, c. 1743; Bordeaux, St Paul) to the cold classicism of his statue of Apollo commissioned by Mme de Pompadour for the park at the château of Bellevue, Hautes-de-Seine (marble, 1753; Versailles, Château).

He worked fluently but without great originality in various sculptural forms, producing portrait busts and religious and mythological works. Among his most important sculptures are the statues of Mars and Venus, commissioned by Frederick II of Prussia (marble, 1769; Potsdam, Schloss Sanssouci); the pedimental reliefs executed in conjunction with Michel-Ange Slodtz for Ange-Jacques Gabriel's buildings (from 1753) on the Place de la Concorde (originally Place Louis XV), Paris; and the monument in Sens Cathedral to the Dauphin (son of Louis XV), Louis de Bourbon and his Wife (marble and bronze, 1766-77). Although its allegorical programme, devised by Charles-Nicolas Cochin II, has been criticized as over-complex, this free-standing tomb, an early masterpiece of sentimental Neo-classicism, is one of the most important pieces of funerary sculpture of the 18th century in France.