Exquisitely carved alabaster portrait bust of Voltaire signed “ROSSET scvlpsit 1767 A St Clavde”. The smiling philosopher is portrayed without a wig and is wearing an informal garment over a shirt with a lace collar. The bust rests on a black and white marble plinth on a later white marble fluted column.
Jean-François-Joseph Rosset was born in the Franche-Compté region near Switzerland in the town of St.-Claude in 1706. The Marquis de Villette described a visit made by Rosset to Voltaire in 1765: “Charmed by the friendliness of this artist, Voltaire welcomed him to Ferney, (Voltaire’s home in Switzerland) and I witnessed the innocence with which he doffed his wig, while playing chess, and revealed his bald head to him. The King of Prussia… said ‘There is no-one who knows how to give life to a bust like the Franche-Comté sculptor!’ He manipulated boxwood, marble and alabaster with equal skill.” Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs de l’école Française: Stanislas Lami; Champion, Paris 1911. Vol. II, page 304-305. Rosset died in 1786. Several of his works are in the Louvre, including a similar ivory bust of Voltaire also dressed informally.