(b. 1725, Paris, d. 1792, Paris)
Bust of the Astronomer Chanoine Pingré1788
Terracotta, height 47 cm (without stand)
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The portrait was an important subject of eighteenth-century art: the individual as he really was, with his psychological quirks and unique physique, not just the individual as an embodiment of a social function. The sculptors of the period have left us a gallery of unsurpassed portraits, even compared to contemporary painted portraits, for the third dimension adds the seal of truth. Bust were not intended as works for formal display, but as testimonials to friendship, as confidential glimpses, as striking portrayals.
Take Cafféri's bust of the astronomer Chanoine Pingré, carved in the year before the outbreak of the French Revolution. With his jowls and his pout, his look of a somewhat sceptical bonhomie, the old scholar-priest, a renowned astronomer in his day, comes to life before our eyes.