Falconet, Peter (DNB00)

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FALCONET, PETER [PIERRE ETIENNE] (1741–1791), portrait-painter, born in Paris in 1741, was son of Etienne Maurice Falconet, the eminent sculptor of the famous statue of Peter the Great at St. Petersburg. His first studies were probably in the French Academy, but his father, who was on terms of personal friendship with Sir Joshua Reynolds, sent his son to England to work under that painter's direction. He came to London about 1766, in which year he obtained a premium of twenty guineas for a painting in chiaroscuro; in 1768 he gained another of twenty-six guineas for an historical composition. He was a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, and contributed to their exhibitions from 1767 to 1773, and occasionally to the Royal Academy, mostly portraits. Falconet is best known in England by a set of portraits of eminent artists, drawn in profile in blacklead, with a slight tint of colour on the cheeks; these were engraved in the dotted manner by D. P. Pariset, and also by B. Reading. They comprise portraits of Sir William Chambers, Francis Cotes, Joshua Kirby, Francis Hayman, Jeremiah Meyer, Ozias Humphry, George Stubbs, Benjamin West, James Paine, the architect, W. W. Ryland, Paul Sandby, Sir Joshua Reynolds (the likeness is attested by Northcote), and others. Many of his other portraits were engraved, among them being Horace Walpole, the Rev. James Granger (frontispiece to his ‘Biographical History’), Viscount Nuneham, the Earl and Countess of Marchmont and their son, Lord Polwarth, Hugh, duke of Northumberland, Christian VII of Denmark, all engraved by D. P. Pariset; Elizabeth, countess of Harcourt, Elizabeth, countess of Ancrum, Mrs. Green and her son, and others engraved in mezzotint by Valentine Green; others were engraved by Hibbert, J. Watson, Dixon, Gabriel Smith, and J. F. Bause. There is a small engraving, from a design by Falconet, representing the interior of his father's studio. He also engraved himself some designs of F. Boucher. Some time after 1773 Falconet returned to France, and married Marie Anne Collot, his father's assistant, and herself a sculptor of some eminence. He continued to practise painting, and died in 1791. His daughter, Madame Jankowitz, bequeathed a collection of his works to the Museum at Nancy, comprising portraits of himself and family, pictures, drawings, &c., besides some plaster busts by his wife, including one of Falconet himself. Two of the portraits mentioned above, viz. those of Sir W. Chambers and Paul Sandby, are among the drawings in the print room at the British Museum. He decorated a Chinese temple for Lady de Grey at Wrest in Bedfordshire.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers; Gazette des Beaux-Arts, August 1869; Dodd's manuscript History of English Engravers; Chaloner Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Catalogues of the Society of Artists (Anderdon), print room, British Museum; information from the director of the Museum at Nancy.]

L. C.