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VoltaireEnlarge image

Voltaire, model 1778

Jean-Antoine Houdon
French, 1741 - 1828
patinated bronze
45.7 x 30 x 26 cm
Presented in memory of Sir James Grant, K.C.M.G., by his family, 1934
National Gallery of Canada (no. 4223)

On 30 March 1778, the year of Voltaire's death, and following a performance of his "Irène" at the Théâtre Français, a laurel wreath was placed on a new portrait bust of the author. This bust was probably the clay or terra cotta model for the finished bronze and marble versions that followed later that same year. Two representations evolved from the original work - one with Voltaire in modern dress wearing a wig, and the other showing him bare-headed, in the Antique style. It was this latter image, the bronze version of which is displayed here, that became the most famous of the portraits of Voltaire.

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