Clodion specialized in small-scale terracotta figure groups, often with playfully erotic subjects loosely based on ancient myths concerning the wine god Bacchus and his devotees. Intended for enjoyment at close range in elegant domestic settings, these inventions were the fruits of years of study in Italy. Although signed and clearly meant to be preserved, this example was sculpted as a model for a large-scale work in marble. The National Gallery also owns the finished marble, one of the few such commissions to Clodion that have survived. This rare pairing of a terracotta model and a finished marble in one collection permits a fascinating insight into the design's development.
The marble Poetry and Music was one of four groups symbolizing the arts and sciences, ordered by the Abbé Joseph-Marie Terray to decorate the dining room of his Parisian mansion, celebrating his appointment as Director of the Royal Buildings in 1774. In realizing these plump little figures, Clodion made knowing use of terracotta's effectiveness for representing flesh, with soft, pliant forms and even a pinkish color. Particularly engaging is the children's absorbed concentration. Poetry, with head on hand, devours a book, while Music strums his stringed instrument and sings with head thrown back.
on reverse of rock: CLODION
Leroy de Senneville [1715-1784], Paris; (his sale, Chariot and Paillet at Hôtel de Bulion, Paris, 5-11 April 1780, no. 289); sold to Devouges. Vicomte Charles-Alexandre de Calonne [1734-1802]; (his sale, Le Brun, Paris, 21-30 April 1788, no. 253); sold for 247 livres to Lebrun. (Sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 14 June 1920, no. 132); purchased by David David-Weill [1871-1952], Neuilly-sur-Seine; sold 1937 to (Wildenstein and Co., New York), until at least 1940. (Jacques Helft & Co., New York); sold 18 December 1944 to Mme Forsyth Wickes. (Rosenberg & Steibel, New York); sold 1976 to NGA.
- French XVIIIth Century Sculpture formerly of the David-Weill Collection, Wildenstein & Co., New York, April 1940, no. 38
- Clodion 1738-1814, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1992, no. 63, repro.
- Thirion, Henri. Les Adam et Clodion, Paris, 1885: 393.
- Hodgekinson, Terence. The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor. London 1970: 18-19.
- Kalnein, Wend Graf, and Michael Levey. Art and Architecture of the Eighteenth Century in France. Harmondsworth, 1972: 100.
- Ford, Terrence, compiler and ed. Inventory of Music Iconography, no. 1. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York 1986: no. 162.
- Scherf, Guilhem. “Autour de Clodion: variations, répétitions, imitations.” Revue de l’Art 91 (1991): 47-59, esp. 59 n. 67.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 302, repro.
- Bailey, Colin. "Mécénat privé? Mécénat public? L'abbé Terray, collectionneur de sculptures contemporaines." In Clodion et la sculpture française de la fin du XVIIIe siècle: Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre par le service culturel les 20 et 21 mars 1992. Paris, 1993: 203, 219 n. 35.
- Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 45, repro.
- National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000: repro. 58, 59, 61.
- The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. A Centennial Celebration of Wildenstein's Presence in New York. Exh. cat. Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 2005: 79 (not in the exhibition).