National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Calliope Augustin Pajou (artist)
French, 1730 - 1809
Calliope, c. 1763
overall: 158 x 60.8 x 46.1 cm (62 3/16 x 23 15/16 x 18 1/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Marble Sculpture from France
Object 4 of 8

A Latin inscription identifies this figure as Calliope, muse of epic poetry.

Although Pajou was known to have carved several muses as garden decorations, this work is unsigned and its attribution still being studied. The sculptor shows a natural affinity for the calm restraint of neoclassicism, which grew in popularity in the later decades of the eighteenth century. Compare the quiet silhouette and dignified stance of Calliope with the complex twisting motion of Lemoyne's Companion of Diana. Calliope's drapery falls heavily, while the nymph's swirls around her. The linear folds that cling as if damp to Calliope's torso recall ancient Greek sculpture, which was increasingly admired in the late eighteenth century.

Pajou, who came from a family of minor sculptors, was among the busiest artists of his generation. He was a favorite of Madame du Barry, Louis XVI's mistress, and received a number of royal and public commissions, but he is perhaps best known for his portrait busts. These brought him many private patrons, and, unlike many other artists, he was able to accommodate a new clientele after the revolution.

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Artist Information

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