The first versions of this Houdon composition, made in marble, would be datable from the years 1774-1780. The great popularity of this subject at the end of the 18th century led to many small-scale bronze reproductions, probably realized by the former student of Houdon, who is none other than the famous bronze artist Pierre-Philippe Thomire.
A handsome youth with curls held by a ribbon gently leans towards a young woman offering her lips. A thin garland of roses arises to unite the two lovers. Along with this first Kiss Given, a second sculpture group by Houdon responds, dated the same year, entitled "The Kiss Received" where a young woman approaches a grown man to offer a kiss. One of the bronze versions from the 1790s by Thomire is currently on view at the Wallace collection (inv. S218).
The motif of the given kiss, which is much appreciated, also transposed the field of decorative arts, as here on this inkwell; likewise on a remarkable set of clocks from the last third of the 18th century. Their movements are signed by the famous clock makers Noël Bourret and Robert Robin. These pendulum clocks are decorated very similar to ours on the upper part, as evident by the Bourret signature on the dial on view at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (inv. 6193), or the one that was part of the Aguttes auction, Neuilly-sur-Seine, on 16 December 2014, lot 139.
On the clocks as well as on our inkwell, the group figurines are framed by burning censers adorned with lion heads holding chains or rings in their muzzles, atop lion paws, probably freely inspired by projects from the architect François Joseph Belanger or his brother-in-law, the decorator Jean Démosthène Dugourc.
Another inkwell topped by a Houdon kiss, reproduced in the work of Giacomo and Rozenn Wannenes, can be seen as an intermediary between our inkwell and the clocks by Bourret and Robin. Indeed, facing the ink well it features, like the clocks, the bird in flight and the same marble base with toupie feet as the latter.
The very comparable ornamentation on this group of objects suggests the existence of a common model which it is impossible to credit with any certainty to a specific artisan. Nevertheless, certain stylistic similarities exist with some works ascribed to François Rémond, Pierre Gouthière and of course to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the quality of the bronzes confirm these prestigious attributions.
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