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

Pierre Corneille

Terracotta, height 156 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Eighteenth-century sculptors tended to portray scientists and men of letters rather than soldiers, as regards the famous men of the past. The vogue for retrospective portraits flourished and would continue to do so for a long time. Caffiéri was particularly proficient at this genre, as seen by his wonderfully lifelike statue of Pierre Corneille. He captures the dramatist searching for an appropriate rhyme or twist in plot, a goose quill in his hand and a number of folios lying scattered at his feet. The sculptor is careful to avoid any anachronism and depicts him accurately in seventeenth-century dress, thus anticipating the historicism of the nineteenth-century artists. The composition reveals a remarkably harmonious sense of balance and it has an undeniable vivacity.