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  • NameDavid Le Marchand
  • Activity/Titlesculptor
  • Sexmale
  • Variant namesDavid Le Marchand
  • Nationality/DatesFrench, born 1674-10-12, dead 1726-03-17
  • PlacesPlace of birth: France
    Place of death: London, Storbritannien
    Place of activity: Storbritannien
BiographyFrench ivory-carver, active in Britain. He was the son of Guillaume Le Marchand, a painter, and was presumably trained in Dieppe, where ivory-carving was an important craft. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685, Le Marchand, a Huguenot, emigrated to Edinburgh, where in 1696 he opened a shop. The earliest medallion indubitably signed by him dates from that year. By 1705 he had moved to London, where he settled, becoming a member of the Huguenot community there; he became a naturalized citizen in 1709.

Portraiture became Le Marchand’s speciality, although he also carved a few mythological or religious statuettes. His style initially reflected that of earlier carvers in Dieppe, such as Jean Mancel ( fl 1681–1717), and that of Jean Cavalier, his gifted predecessor in London. His earliest portraits are in profile and in low relief on an oval plaque or medallion. However, he soon aspired to more ambitious kinds of portraiture, carving in 1697 a substantial and masterly bust in the round of the philosopher John Locke (untraced). Other busts in varying sizes followed: Anne Churchill, Countess of Sunderland (1699 or later; London, V&A); Anne Nellthorpe (1704), John Vesey, Archbishop of Tuam (1702) and Francis Sambrooke (1704; all three priv. col.); John, 1st Baron Somers (1706; Wimpole Hall, Cambs, NT); Sir Isaac Newton (1714, Melbourne, N.G. Victoria; 1718, London, BM); and George I (1716; London, V&A). The busts of Locke and Newton were much imitated contributions to the iconography of these famous men. Le Marchand’s subjects also included John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (London, V&A), the Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed (Greenwich, Royal Observatory), Christopher Wren (London, BM; London, N.P.G.) and Thomas Guy (London, V&A), founder of Guy’s Hospital in London. His known oeuvre stands at some 70 pieces, nearly all of them signed and some dated; 10 of his works are in the British Museum, London, and 14 in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

As Le Marchand’s fame increased, he also pioneered the use of much thicker plaques of ivory for his reliefs, so that the head and shoulders projected to almost half their natural depth (at the scale at which he was working). He probably made preliminary models from the life in wax, the ductile nature of which influenced the way he then carved the drapery in deeply scooped, sinuous folds. Flowing locks of hair and incisively chiselled facial features complete the brilliantly characterized portraits, which are among the most impressive ever carved in ivory. Le Marchand’s comparatively few statuettes are as fine as the portraits; most intricate is Time with Opportunity and Penitence (London, V&A), a rendering on a miniature scale of a marble group of Saturn Abducting Cybele (1675–8) made by Thomas Regnaudin for the château of Versailles. Another work of his own invention, a Crucified Christ (London, V&A), demonstrates an aptitude for rendering anatomy and emotion.

T. Hodgkinson: ‘An Ingenious Man for Carving in Ivory’, V&A Mus. Bull., i (1965), pp. 29–32

S. R. Houfe: ‘A Whig Artist in Ivory: David Le Marchand (1674–1726)’, Ant. Colr, xlii (1971), pp. 66–70

The Quiet Conquest: The Huguenots, 1685 to 1985 (exh. cat., London, Mus. London, 1985), pp. 208–12, nos 303–10

C. Avery: Studies in European Sculpture, ii (London, 1988), pp. 241–52

Charles Avery
Le Marchand, David
Georg I av England (?), rund medaljong av elfenben