Published: March 26, 2019
GENESEO, N.Y. — Two rediscovered marble busts by the French Eighteenth Century sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828) sold at Cottone Auctions’ sale on March 23.
The busts, reductions in Serevezza marble, one representing Jean-Jacques Rousseau which totaled $778,800 and the other, Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, totaled $696,200; measuring 11½ and 11 inches in height, including the socle. Each is signed and dated, the former “houdon f 1788,” and the latter “houdon f 1789,” and both are recorded as being shown at the Paris Salon of 1789, “Aux portraits que tu en fais, je les reconnais ces charmants modéles… nos sublimes J.J. Rousseau et Buffon.”
They were acquired in 1926 from the Paris dealer Paul Gouvert by Irwin B Laughlin (1871–1941), an American diplomat who served in the State Department from 1903 through 1932. He was appointed ambassador to Spain and served from 1929 to 1932, when he formed an extensive collection of French Eighteenth Century drawings, with help from Agnews Gallery, London and Comte Enrico Bosdari (known as Henri Brémont).
Laughlin built his home in Washington, The Meridian House, by John Russell Pope, in the Louis XVI style and assisted in the planning of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.
His collection was preserved by his widow, Therese Iselin Laughlin, until her death in 1958, when it was inherited by their only child, Gertrude. Much of it was sold in 1959, and some of the remaining drawings were bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in 1982.
The two Houdon busts, both of which are recorded in the Frick art reference library in New York, have passed down through Laughlin’s descendants. Prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. Stay tuned for a full review of the auction in a future issue.
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