Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Head of a Bearded Elder

Augustin Pajou (French, Paris 1730–1809 Paris)
French, probably Paris
Terracotta on a bleu turquin marble socle
Overall, without socle (confirmed): 14 1/4 x 12 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (36.2 x 30.8 x 24.1 cm); Height with socle: 21 1/2 in. (54.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2003
Accession Number:
Not on view
The precise meaning of this bristling elder remains to be determined. Suggestions for his identity have ranged from Aristotle to Moses to a retired pugilist. The work fits within the French academic tradition of modeling heads to express various passions, but which could this belligerent character personify? Barely controlled rage, perhaps, but what does the mantle connote? The ancient marbles that are most like the head in conveying crossness and contempt represent philosophers of the Cynic school, but they do not wear mantles. In the end perhaps the main subject is the model himself, no doubt an Italian; during and after his study years in Italy (1752-56), Pajou drew and modeled similar types, aged but vigorous, hirsute and ornery. Our head, carried out with canny asymmetrical adjust- ments of the clay, is the most mesmeriz- ing of these exercises. Unrecorded until it was auctioned last year in Paris, it was totally unknown to the authors of the Museum's 1998 "Augustin Pajou" exhibition but will figure in next year's "Playing with Fire: European Terracotta Models, 1740 to 1840."
Signature: Signed and dated on proper right shoulder, before firing: Pajou / fé. 1768
Edmond Courty (until d. 2002) ; [ heirs of Edmond Courty sale, Hôtel Drouot , December 9, 2002, no. 30; sold to MMA ]
Related Objects

Fidelity, the Mother of Constant Love

Artist: Augustin Pajou (French, Paris 1730–1809 Paris) Date: 1799 Medium: Terracotta Accession: 1986.282 On view in:Gallery 552

Project for a Monumental Fountain

Artist: Augustin Pajou (French, Paris 1730–1809 Paris) Date: 1767 Medium: Pen, brown and black ink, brush, brown and gray wash Accession: 1979.388 On view in:Not on view

Design for a Pulpit

Artist: Attributed to Augustin Pajou (French, Paris 1730–1809 Paris) Date: n.d. Medium: Pen and black ink, black chalk with pink and yellow wash, over graphite underdrawing Accession: 1970.736.37 On view in:Not on view

Pyrrhus in the House of Glaucias

Artist: Augustin Pajou (French, Paris 1730–1809 Paris) Date: late 18th century Medium: Black chalk, pen and grey ink, grey wash on two joined sheets Accession: 2014.439 On view in:Not on view

Pierre François Basan (1723–1797)

Artist: Imitator of Augustin Pajou (French, Paris 1730–1809 Paris) Date: 20th century, after 18th century model Medium: Terracotta Accession: 41.190.35 On view in:Not on view