(b. 1738, Nancy, d. 1814, Paris)


Marble, height 164 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), more commonly known as Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, taken for granted in modern discussions of government and implemented in many constitutions throughout the world.

In 1778, Angiviller, the Directeur des Bâtiments, initiated a scheme of the great men of France, nearly all chosen from the seventeenth century. Clodion received the most recent personage in the series, Montesquieu. The seated statues in the series are more successful than the standing figures, but among them all Clodion's is the finest achievement. The plaster model was presented at the Salon of 1779, the finished marble at the Salon of 1783. The statue was a great success, however, Clodion did not receive the commission for another great man.

Although the life-size Montesquieu is sufficient indication of Clodion's ability to handle marble, his name is rightly associated with terracotta - the medium with potentialities for small-scale decorative works.