Materiality, the model, and the myth of origins
Cannady, Lauren R
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The value of terracotta as a sculptural medium has never been a monetary one; rather, its worth is found in its intrinsic malleability, allowing sculptors to work quickly in capturing an idea, likeness, or expression. While historically sculptors have chosen terracotta as a preferred medium for making models, or bozzetti, it has also long been associated with finished portrait busts. This thesis traces the rise in prominence of terracotta as a material of finished portrait sculpture in the late eighteenth century, culminating in the busts of the French academic sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. By examining contemporaneous trends in the fine arts as well as literature, it is possible to understand eighteenth-century terracotta portrait busts as reflections of the increased appreciation for the material qualities of terracotta and the creative and unique touch of the sculptor.