This is a very large 19th century Parian bisque (biscuit) bust or statue of a female or young girl, sculpted by the Paris sculptor (sculpteur), Hector Lemaire, for Henri Ardant, a Limoges company.
This bust weighs a bit over 15 pounds; it is approximately 19” high, 11 ½” long and 5 ½” wide.
Henri Ardant & Cie was a different type of Limoges porcelain maker. The company specialized in decorative objects, versus dinnerware, and the company’s focus was on sculpted works of art in bisque or biscuit. Ardant did not export to North America, so Limoges collectors residing in the United States and Canada have not seen these works of art unless they traveled to France and visited the French museums. With regards to the busts, Ardant commissioned primarily Paris sculptors to create the works of art, and typically the busts would be created in a series of up to 12 busts, with the series having a theme. As such, the busts are known as “porcelaine d’art.” Today, most of these works of art are found in museums, such as Le Musee Adrien Dubouche en Limoges, or the Adrien Dubouche Museum in Limoges.
When Henri Ardant died in 1883, Raymond and Maurice Laporte took over the Henri Ardant company. It is Raymond Laporte who continued with the porcelaine d’art in biscuit, and he commissioned well-known artists like Joseph Cheret, Sylvain Kinsburger, Hippolyte Moreau and Hector Lemaire. Thus, the time frame for when the bust was made is 1883 to 1885, the two years when Lemaire created objets d’art for the Henri Ardant company.
Hector Lemaire lived from 1846 to 1933. He also did work for Sevres around 1902 to 1905. He eventually became the Chief Director of the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris (Ecole des Arts Decoratifs.) Some of his named sculptures in French museums today are Graziella, Eclipse of the Moon, Mother Love, Child and Rose, The Task, La Cigale, Pandora and Dream of Love. One of Lemaire’s more famous students was Charles Despiau, an assistant to Rodin.
Additional references for more information on Henri Ardant & Cie, and the sculptor Hector Lemaire, are the two books “Limoges: Deux Siecles de Porcelaine” by Chantal Meslin-Perrier (Conservator of the Adrien-Dubouche National Museum), and “La Porcelaine de Limoges” by Jean d’Albis and Celeste Romanet. These two books will show you some of the decorative objects created by Henri Ardant and residing in French museums, and specifically some of the busts modeled on women of the day that are similar in style to these two busts.
This bust is of a young girl wearing a hat. She is wearing her hair in two braids. One braid falls down over one shoulder and is tied with a ribbon. The other braid falls down the back. She is wearing a dress with a scoop collar. Around the neck is a pear bead necklace, with a heart locket and a Christian cross. The hat is unusual and comes down in the back.
The bust is in museum quality condition. However bisque or biscuit objects of this size and age that are old will have minor flaws, and if you collect such decorative works of art, then you are familiar with seeing what I am describing. One, dust has accumulated over the decades on some areas and so the piece can be cleaned if desired as there are dirt smudges. I am not going to do it. Two, around some of the edges there are firing cracks in the porcelain, also a little bit around the base, under the base, in the hair, on the hat, and so on. These firing lines are there from inception, but will deepen and widen a bit with age and stress. There are probably a few flakes showing, and I can see and feel one on the inner edge of the hat, but it doesn’t show in a photo. I say all of this because a bust is not a dinner plate and what I am describing is typical for a museum quality bisque bust, but not of a dinner plate. I hope you understand the difference. Third, there is a variation in color of the bust that can be seen in the back, as if the sculptor used a slightly different clay for the top when he melded it to the bottom. This color variation doesn’t show up in a photo at all. I don’t think the color variation means there has been a restoration, but if there has it is difficult to detect. Fourth, there is some white powder residue in the crevices of the bust, as if the bust was stored away in a white powder substance and it needs to be gently vacuumed clean. And fifth, there are dirt smudges and some slight staining, and so the bust does need to be carefully cleaned. I won’t do the cleaning; I will leave the cleaning to the eventual buyer.
I see no obvious chips or cracks, just the slight things I mentioned that are to be expected for porcelain biscuit busts. Again, please remember that a bisque bust is different, that Parian busts have stress lines and other irregularities not found in glazed porcelain. There is also that one flake along the back hat rim that I mentioned, but it doesn’t show in a photo.
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