Venus with Cupid

Artist/Maker: Factory of Etienne-Maurice Falconet

Created: c. 1785

Origin/Purchase: France

Materials: biscuit

Dimensions: 30.5 × 19.7 × 13.3 (12 × 7 3/4 × 5 1/4 in.)

Location: Parlor

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by gift to Martha Jefferson Carr; by descent to Hetty Cary Harrison; by gift to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1938

Accession Number: 1938-13-2

Historical Notes: Statuettes made of biscuit for the decoration of tables were much favored in the eighteenth century. The milky surface of unglazed soft paste porcelain lent itself well to fine modeling. The figures, which were mass produced in molds, ranged from mythological subjects - the most popular - to the seasons, portraits, playful children's games, and contemporary events. The renowned Sèvres porcelain factory, the Manufacture Royale de Porcelaine de France, made some of the best examples.

Jefferson acquired at least ten biscuit statuettes. Four - Minerva, Diana, Apollo, and Mars - were purchased for Abigail Adams from Bazin, a Paris merchant who sold tablewares, in late September 1785. Jefferson purchased more than six for himself, including a Hercules purchased from Bazin in 1784, which might have been the Farnese Hercules produced at Sèvres. Only Venus with Cupid and Hope with Cupid are known today.[1] Hope with Cupid was signed by Josse-François-Joseph Le Riche, who had been one of two principal assistants to the director Etienne-Maurice Falconet at Sèvres and later became chef de sculpteurs there. After Falconet left Sèvres in 1766, his assistants, including Le Riche, carried on similar work, but in a more stylized manner.

At Monticello, the figures may have been used in the Parlor or in the Dining Room as table decorations.

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 237


  1. ^ Six statuettes are mentioned on Grevin's Packing List of July 1790: four in crate number fifty-five and two in crate number fifty-six. Grevin packing list, July 17, 1790, William Short Papers, Library of Congress. See also Short to Jefferson, November 7, 1790, in PTJ, 18:37n. Editorial note available at Founders Online.