Jean-Antoine Houdon, one of the supreme masters of the sculpted portrait, created remarkable likenesses of the great figures of the Enlightenment, among them Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and Benjamin Franklin. In 1778, when Voltaire was 84, he sat for Houdon in Paris. Houdon created two different marble busts of Voltaire — one without and one with a wig — and a nearly life-size sculpture of a seated Voltaire, dressed as an ancient Roman. The Library’s collection includes this bronze version of the marble without a wig; the marble can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jean-Antoine Houdon. Bust of Voltaire. Bronze, 1778. The New York Public Library.