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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
French, established 1738
Bust of Madame du Barry
c. 1771–73
Soft-paste porcelain

12 3/4 x 8 1/2 x 5 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Rienzi Collection
Given in memory of Caroline Wiess Law by The Brown Foundation, Inc., Isla and Tommy Reckling, Mrs. James Anderson, Jr., James A. Elkins, Jr., Fayez Sarofim, James and Elise Reckling, Mr. and Mrs. A. Leslie Ballard, Jr., Mrs. Fred T. Couper, Jr., Isabel B. Wilson, Alfredo and Celina Hellmund Brener, Rosslyn and Marshall Crawford, Ellen and Ed Randall III, Mr. and Mrs. Cliffe Reckling, Wilhelmina and Ed Smith, Jr., Mrs. Harold Stream, Jr., Sue and Bill Whitfield, Jas A. Gundry, Betty Lou and John Carter, Jr., Joan and Irvin L. Levy, Alice C. Simkins, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Anderson, Kitty Neuhaus, Buddy English, Jr., Fran Fauntleroy, Katherine S. and George E. Howe, Carolyn and Harry Hudson, Mrs. Hutcheson III, Barbara and John Riddell, Jr., and Caroline Rotan

Arts of Europe

This elegant portrait bust depicts Marie-Jeanne Bécu, who was the Comtesse du Barry from 1743 to 1793. Famous for being the favorite mistress of France's King Louis XV, she was also a major patron of the arts. During her reign as official royal mistress, many portraits of Madame du Barry were undertaken by leading artists. Celebrated French sculptor Augustin Pajou, for example, rendered du Barry´s portrait in terra cotta.

Sèvres, the royal porcelain factory, re-created Pajou's design in porcelain. Rienzi´s version of the bust, made in the early 1770s, was most likely intended as a gift to an admirer or a deserving member of du Barry´s entourage. Her great beauty is accentuated by the delicate rendering of her features and hair. She is clothed in Neoclassical drapery, and her countenance is elegant, regal, and restrained. Sèvres portrait busts are exceedingly rare, especially those of royal subjects. Only two other examples of this particular model, currently in French museums, are known.