Biscuit Group 'La Nature', by Louis-Simon Boizot, 1794
Biscuit Group 'La Nature', Louis-Simon Boizot, 1794. Museum no. C.361-2009. Purchased with support from The Friends of the V&A
Louis-Simon Boizot held the title of Sculptor to the King and became Director of Sculpture at Sèvres in 1773. This model was made in 1794, the year following the execution of Louis XVI and the consequent transfer of Sèvres from royal to state ownership. It was also the year in which the National Convention voted in favour of the abolition of slavery, prompting numerous engravings celebrating the themes of civil rights and benevolence to all men and all nations. The engraving on which this group is based was made by Marie-Adelaide Boizot, sister of the designer. Nature is depicted nursing two children of European and African origin. The practice of breast feeding, although revived by the aristocracy during the Ancien Régime, came to symbolise the Republican values of equality and duty.
This group was arguably one of Sèvres' most important and accomplished productions of the period. It was made at a time when the manufacture's production was in decline, following the upheavals of the Revolution and preceding the new Empire.
Three examples of this model came out of the kiln on 2 messidor an II (20 June 1794), with the comment that they needed to be refired. Three were in the 22 messidor firing (possibly the same ones), a further four were fired on 22 Thermidor an II, and three on 21 Fructidor an II. This means that either 10 or 13 were produced. This piece is thought to be the only surviving example and its clear political significance continues to resonate in the 21st century.
Purchased with support from The Friends of the V&A