A portrait of a young girl in marble by the French Sculptor Jacques Saly is mentioned (by French Sculptor/Historian Stanislas Lami) as being exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1750. The art collector and connoisseur Mariette mentions (in 1753) a pretty head of a young girl, in marble, being sculpted by Saly in Rome. Various versions of this bust survive, and a number of writers have discussed them. These include another marble version, thought to be the original (in a private collection), and other versions in terracotta, bronze and faience.
The V&A bust is thought to be an early (second half of 18th century) copy of the original model. It is quite likely to be by Saly himself, but it is not signed.
There has been some debate about the identity of the sitter. She has been thought in the past to be Alexandrine d'Etoilles (daughter of Mme de Pompadour) and - subsequently - the daughter of Jean-Francois de Troy, Director of the French Academy in Rome when Saly had studied there in the 1740s. Both theories have now been discounted, so her identity remains unknown.
Francois Boucher (1703-1770) reproduced Saly's bust in a panel entitled 'The Arts and Sciences: Painting and Sculpture'; part of series he painted for Madame de Pompadour in 1750-52 (possibly for the Chateau de Crecy). This, along with other panels, are on display in the Frick Collection, New York. Saly's bust has enduring appeal and has been frequently copied, including in the nineteenth century.
Jacques François Joseph Saly, more usually known as Jacques Saly (1717-1776), was born in France and initially trained under the sculptor Guillaume Coustou. He won a place at the French Academy in Rome where he studied 1740-48. After a few years back in Paris he left for Copenhagen, arriving in 1753, as he had been recommended to create an equestrian statue of King Frederick V of Denmark to be placed in the centre of the courtyard of Amalienborg Palace. This project occupied him for many years and was finally completed in 1768. The Royal Danish Academy of Art was established in 1754 and Saly was made its Director.
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