- Self-portrait
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Philippe-Laurent ROLAND (Pont-à-Marc, 1746-1816, Paris)
Terracotta bust, on marble socle

52.5 cm (20¾ in.) high overall: bust alone, 39.5 cm (15 ½ in.)

- Comtesse de Boissieu-Durfort, Château de Mello, near Senlis.

Comparative literature:
- Henry Marcel, ‘Quelques œuvres inédites de Philippe Roland’, Gazette des Beaux Arts, 3rd series, XXV, 1901, pp. 182-183.
- James D. Draper, ‘Pajou et Roland’ in Augustin Pajou et ses contemporains. Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel les 7 et 8 novembre 1997, ed. by G. Scherf, 1999, pp. 539-558, notes 22 and 26, figs. 9-11.

Biographical references:
- Ph.-L. Roland papers, Bibliothèque d’art et d’archéologie, Fondation Jacques Doucet, Paris.
- Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école française au dix-huitième siècle, Paris 1911, pp. 296-303.
- The dictionary of art, ed. by J. Turner, Macmillan 1996, entry by Guilhem Scherf.
- James D. Draper & Guilhem Scherf, L’esprit créateur de Pigalle à Canova. Terres cuites européennes 1740-1840, exhib. cat., musée du Louvre, Paris, September 2003-January 2004, p. 319 [Playing with fire. European terracotta models, 1740–1840, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January-April 2004; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, May-August 2004, p. 306].

Roland’s feathery handling of this magnificent self-portrait is more reminiscent of pastel than of modelled clay: indeed, it is only a few years later than Chardin’s pastel self-portraits of the 1770s (both Louvre). The sculptor appears confident and spirited, his head held high and his penetrating gaze directed to his right, as if glimpsing eternity. The turn of Roland’s head and eyes may indicate that the bust was intended as a pendant to one of the many portraits Roland undertook of other members of his family: this is impossible to determine because Roland did not sign nor date several of them.

Many of these portraits remained in Roland’s family, including the marble version of the present bust which still belonged in 1901 to Gabriel de Montigny, a direct descendant of Roland’s daughter (who had married Gabriel Lucas de Montigny, son of the sculptor Jean-Robert-Nicolas): it is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and was published by James Draper in 1999. It remains to be discovered whether the Comtesse de Boissieu-Durfort, the previous owner of the present terracotta, is also a descendant of Roland’s.

Roland married Thérèse-Françoise Potain in 1782, the daughter of Nicolas-Marie Potain, comptroller of works at the château of Fontainebleau (whose other daughter, Marie-Adrienne, had married the architect Pierre Rousseau in 1777). Roland created several portrait busts of his family - himself and his brother-in-law in marble (both undated, possibly as a pair) ; his wife, Thérèse-Françoise, in terracotta and plaster ; his mother-in-law, née Marie-Louise le Saché, in terracotta (dated October 1788) ; Pierre-Camille and Rose-Marie-Charlotte Rousseau, his nephew and niece, aged 7 and 3 respectively, in terracotta (dated 18 October and 20 November 1788) ; Mademoiselle Potain (Salon de 1789, no. 263: same as Roland’s mother-in-law?); and his daughter, Lise (1804-1805) . Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun’s painted portrait of Madame Pierre Rousseau with her daughter, dated 1789, is in the Louvre .

The specks of ‘rust’ visible on the surface are also found on Roland’s fired clay bust of an old man sleeping recently exhibited in the terracotta exhibition cited above (French cat. no. 24; English cat. no. 25).


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