The personal interest that accentuates every detail of the "Voltaire" the physiognomy, the pose, the right hand, are marvellously characteristic simply is not sought for in Chapu's work. Of this quality there is more in Houdon's bust of Molière, whom of course Houdon never saw, than in almost any production of the modern school.
There is some whisper that he will not return, and that, Lord Carmarthen wishes to come here. I am sorry to lose so honest a man as the Duke. I take the liberty to ask an answer about the insurance of Houdon's life. Congress is not likely to adjourn this summer. They have passed an ordinance for selling their lands. I have not received it.
This portrait, a copy from Peale, had been one of the fruits of his last visit to the United States, and hung, with those of some other personal friends, great men all of them, on the drawing-room wall. His Washington was a bronze from Houdon's bust, and stood opposite the mantel-piece on a marble pedestal.
I also got that photograph of Houdon's Voltaire there." He looked in the direction to which I pointed, and, getting up, went over to first one picture and then another, and studied them closely. A bit of bronze, a statuette or two, an altar-piece, a chalice, a flagon, a paten, a censer, and an ikon held his attention, one after the other, and again he turned to me. "These are very interesting.
But in academic French sculpture it is exaggerated, and, what is fatal, one learns to exaggerate it in the schools. The traditions of Houdon are noticeably forgotten. Not that Houdon's art is not eminently characterized by style; the "San Bruno" at Rome is in point of style an antique.
However, I believe there is no fear that Great Britain will puzzle us, by leaving it in our choice to hasten or delay a treaty. Is insurance made on Houdon's life? I am uneasy about it, lest we should hear of any accident. As yet there is no reason to doubt their safe passage. If the insurance is not made, I will pray you to have it done immediately.
But Houdon's admirable busts of Molière, Diderot, Washington, Franklin, and Mirabeau, his unequalled statue of Voltaire in the foyer of the Français and his San Bruno in Santa Maria degli Angeli at Rome are the works on which his fame will chiefly rest, and, owing to their masterly combination of strength with style, rest securely.
I wish much to hear that the canal through the Dismal Swamp is resumed. I have the honor to be, with the highest respect and esteem, Dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, Th: Jefferson. Paris, July 11, 1785. Sir, Mr. Houdon's long and desperate illness has retarded, till now, his departure for Virginia.
To one artistically inclined the creamy tower, modelled on that of the Giralda in Seville, suggests the collaboration of St. Gaudens and White, and the surmounting Diana the early work of the former inspired by Houdon's Diana of the Louvre.
They tell me it is the most favorable scene for business with the Count de Vergennes, because he is then more abstracted from the domestic applications. Count d'Aranda is not yet returned from the waters of Vichy. As soon as he returns, I will apply to him in the case of Mr. Watson. I will pray you to insure Houdon's life from the 27th of last month till his return to Paris.