Bust in Biscuit, Francis I of Habsburg, Vienna, 1812


Male bust dressed, in biscuit, resting on a base in glazed and partially gilded ceramic, bearing the inscription “PATER PATRIAE”; in the lower part there is the trademark with the Austrian shield and the three digits relating to the year of production “[1] 812”, and other two digits “53”.

Dimensions: 65 x 36 x 25 ( 25,5 x 14,1 x 9,8 in )


Historical-critical analysis:

The bust plausibly depicts Francis I of Habsburg, the last emperor of the Romans and the first emperor of Austria. The absolutely characterizing features of the face, such as the dimple on the chin, the prominent nose and the spacious forehead, in fact find ample confirmation with the official portraits of the sovereign. In particular, the successful reference model for the bust in question seems to be the bust of Francis made by Antonio Canova between 1804 and 1805, on the occasion of his appointment as hereditary emperor of Austria.

The wording “Pater Patriae” refers to an honorary title conferred in ancient Rome, usually intended for emperors, as founders and protectors of the homeland. It therefore seems appropriate that the very first Emperor of Austria was indicated with this celebratory name which, moreover, constituted a fortunate reference to the noble descent of Julius Caesar, which the Habsburg family boasted as legitimacy to their rank and role as sovereigns. As a further confirmation of this hypothesis, the bust is presented as a frock coat, a classical clothing, as indeed Canova himself had already done.

The bust in question was made by the successful Vienna ceramics factory, founded in 1717 by Du Paquier, establishing itself as the second largest in Europe for the production of biscuit works. From 1744 it became the property of the imperial house of Austria and its production began from that date to be branded with the royal shield. Certainly important for the history of manufacturing was the direction under Sorgenthal, from 1784 to 1805, which directed the works towards the now prevailing neoclassical taste; he also had the year of construction stamped on each piece, together with the blue shield: the last two digits up to 1800, while after the last three, allowing, as in our case, a precise dating.

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