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François-Marie Arouet known as Voltaire (1694-1778): M.124-1961

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Object information


François-Marie Arouet known as Voltaire (1694-1778)


Houdon, Jean-Antoine (Sculptor)


Terracotta, supported on a pedestal of grey and black marble with gilt-bronze mouldings. Voltaire is seated in an armchair; wrapped in a loose dressing gown; his right hand resting on the arm of the chair and his head turned slightly to the right. At the back of the chair there is a red wax seal ACADEM./ROYALE/ DE PEINTURE/ ET SCULPT./HOUDON/SC.'. The figure is enclosed in a rectangular glazed case with ormolu framing.


History note: Sir Arthur Pinero; Sotheby's, 5th April, 1935, Catalogue of Valuable Porcelain, Historical Relics, Musical Instruments, Furniture etc, p. 6, the property of Sir A M. Pinero (decd.), lot 19, illustrated as frontispiece; Durlacher, London.

Legal notes

Given by L.C.G. Clarke, MA, LLD

Measurements and weight

Height: 33.5 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Paris ⪼ France

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1960) by Clarke, Louis Colville Gray


Late 18th century
Louis XVI
Production date: circa AD/CE 1778


In the Paris Salon of 1779 Houdon exhibited a small gilt-bronze statue of Voltaire seated, intended for Catherine II. The work was greatly admired, and was reproduced in bronze, terracotta and plaster. Houdon's full-size marble version, commissioned in 1778, was exhibited at the Salon in 1781, and in 1782 installed in the Theâtre Française (now théâtre de l'Odéon). It is now in the foyer of the Comedie Française. A small terracotta in the Musée Lambinet, Versailles is inscribed, 'f.p. Houdon an 1778', and has been considered to be the model for the bronze (as has this example). There are several other examples in plaster and terracotta which bear the red wax seal of Houdon's studio. For an extensive list of the large and small-size versions of this work, see Documentation, Scherf, 2006.

People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Pedestal Mouldings: composed of bronze ( gilded) Figure: composed of terracotta Pedestal: composed of marble Marble: Height 11.2 cm
Terracotta Base:
Marble Base:
Pedestal Mounting:

Inscription or legends present

  • Location: At the back of the chair
  • Method of creation: Red wax seal

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.124-1961
Primary reference Number: 29925
External ID: CAM_CCF_M_124_1961
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Saturday 14 March 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 24 March 2021

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2020) "Figure" Web page available at: Accessed: 2021-12-06 20:51:44

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