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Denis Diderot (1713-1784) 1773 Jean Antoine Houdon French A philosopher and man of letters

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) 1773 Jean Antoine Houdon French A philosopher and man of letters


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Denis Diderot (1713-1784) 1773 Jean Antoine Houdon French A philosopher and man of letters

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) 1773 Jean Antoine Houdon French A philosopher and man of letters, and one of the internationally famous exponents of the French Enlightenment, Denis Diderot is best known for the multivolume encyclopedia that he compiled and coedited with Jean Le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) between 1751 and 1772. In the entry for painted portraits, Diderot's Encyclopedie states that the principal merit of the genre is to render the sitter exactly, by capturing both his character and his physiognomy.[1] A portrait bust of Diderot, believed to be the terracotta bust now in the Musee du Louvre, which served as a model for the Museum's marble version, was exhibited by the sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon at the Salon of 1771. The sitter approved of that work, describing it as tres ressemblant ( having a very strong resemblance). It was also well received by contemporary critics, one of whom wrote: "I single out the bald head of the editor of the Encyclopedie. The flame of genius brought that bust to life; there is a fire, an expression, that gives it a striking resemblance; I don't want to say it out loud, but our colleagues the painters have done nothing equal."[2]Winner of the Prix de Rome in 1761, Houdon had spent ten years in Italy and was profoundly influenced by the arts of antiquity. Diderot is shown as a classical philosopher, bare-chested and without wig or other paraphernalia. Justly known for his naturalistic portraiture and his classic simplicity, Houdon was very successful in capturing his sitter's lively eyes and conveying the determination and intelligence that won Diderot many admirers and some enemies--as attested by the words inscribed on the plinth: "il eut de grands Amis et, quelques bas jaloux / le Soleil plait a l'aigle, et blesse les hiboux" ( He had great friends and a few low jealous ones / the sun pleases the eagle and wounds the owls). The slightly parted lips are said to have suggested the brilliance of Diderot's conversation. This is con

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