FALCONET, Étienne-Maurice
(b. 1716, Paris, d. 1791, Paris)

Seated Cupid (detail)

Musée du Louvre, Paris

One of the popular motifs of the period among secondary figures in paintings was the Italian putto in the form of small child. They were everywhere, alongside heroes, in allegories, and even portraits. Putti also invaded small-scale sculpture as exemplified by Falconet's Seated Cupid. The terracotta model of this sculpture was exhibited at the Salon of 1755. The marble version was commissioned by Madame de Pompadour and was placed in the garden of the Hôtel d'Évreux (the future Palais de l'Élysée), her residence in Paris. The original marble version is probably the one atop a column in Amsterdam, and not the one in the Louvre.

The seated, winged Cupid, called Harpocrates, raises a finger to his lips, a pose which Falconet borrowed from an ancient emblem (the little demon of silence). This image became one which characterized the age; this version of the motif was endlessly reproduced.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 4 minutes):
Francesco Gasparini: The Meddlesome Cupid, aria