ETIENNE MAURICE FALCONET (1716-1791), French sculptor, was born in Paris. His parents were poor, and he was at first apprenticed to a carpenter, but some of his clay-figures, with the making of which he occupied his leisure hours, attracted the notice of the sculptor Lemoine, who made him his pupil. He found time to study Greek and Latin, and also wrote several brochures on art. His artistic productions are characterized by the same defects as his writings, for though manifesting considerable cleverness and some power of imagination, they display in many cases a false and fantastic taste, the result, most probably, of an excessive striving after originality. One of his most successful statues was one of Milo of Crotona, which secured his admission to the membership of the Academy of Fine Arts in 1754. At the invitation of the empress Catherine he went in 1766 to St Petersburg, where he executed a colossal statue of Peter the Great in bronze. In 1788 he became director of the French Academy of Painting. Many of Falconet's works, being placed in churches, were destroyed at the time of the French Revolution. His "Nymphe descendant au bain" is in the Louvre.
Among his writings are Reflexions sur la sculpture (Paris, 1768), and Observations sur la statue de Marc-Aurele (Paris, 1771). The whole were collected under the title of CEuvres litteraires (6 vols., Lausanne, 1781-1782; 3 vols., Paris, 1787).
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