Here is a very pretty young woman of 18th century Europe in a bisque porcelain figure created at the royal Sevres Factory in France. Its title, The Gardener with a Vase, rather coyly suggests that she might actually be working and (horrors!) sweating in a garden. However, she is actually an aristocratic young lady in the pose of a gardener, perhaps inspired by one of the pastoral plays or court entertainments that were in vogue at the time. In fact, Marie Antoinette herself just a few years after this figure was made created at Versailles a “rustic retreat” with a working dairy. (I seriously doubt that she milked any cows herself, though.) Such pleasant diversions allowed the aristocracy, who never dirtied their hands, to appreciate the winsome return to a more naturalistic style that was evolving in the arts of the time. This figure was modeled by Claude-Louis Suzanne after drawings by the artist Francois Boucher, probably the most renowned painter/designer of 18th century Europe. She is standing, holding up her apron, which is overflowing with fresh-cut flowers, with an urn at her feet, also full of flowers, on a shaped base. The bottom is incised F for Falconet, under whose direction the model was made. Etienne-Marie Falconet was director of the sculpture workshop from 1757 to 1766 and his mark is often found on figures made in those years. From about 1752 onward, almost all figures produced at Sevres were created in the biscuit state, allowing the extremely precise modeling—as with these delicate flowers— to remain sharp and unaffected by any application of glaze. An example of this figure was in the Firestone Collection. This example has some very flaws (one small crack in the back of her skirt is shown) and a few petals are chipped, but overall it is in remarkably fine condition. She is just over nine inches tall.
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