ADAM, Nicolas-Sébastien - b. 1705 Nancy, d. 1778 Paris - WGA

ADAM, Nicolas-Sébastien

(b. 1705 Nancy, d. 1778 Paris)

French sculptor belonging to a family of sculptors. Originally from Lorraine, the earliest known members of the family to be involved with the arts were Sigisbert Adam, a sculptor, and Lambert Adam, a metal-founder (both active late 17th century). Lambert’s son Jacob-Sigisbert Adam spent most of his working life in Nancy, where he undertook the early training of his sons Lambert-Sigisbert Adam (1700-1759), Nicolas-Sébastien Adam (1705-1778), and François-Gaspard-Balthazar Adam (1710-1761). His daughter Anne married Thomas Michel (d. before 1751), a sculptor from Metz; among their children were the sculptors Sigisbert-François Michel (1727-after 1785) and Claude Michel (known as Clodion). The three Adam brothers went to Rome at the start of their careers, Lambert-Sigisbert and Nicolas-Sébastien returning to France to work on the outdoor sculpture at Versailles, among other projects, and François-Gaspard-Balthazar going on to Sanssouci, Potsdam.

He was trained by his father and then joined his eldest brother Lambert-Sigisbert in Paris. Failing to win the Prix de Rome, he travelled to Italy at his own expense, working on the way in the Château de La Mosson, near Montpellier, and arriving in Rome in 1726. There he was introduced by Lambert-Sigisbert to Cardinal Melchior de Polignac, for whom he restored a number of antique marbles.

He returned to Paris in 1734 and pursued what was to be a busy career. Although he was not received as a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris until 1762, his reception piece, a marble statue of Prometheus (Paris, Louvre), is one of the best of the century. He collaborated with Lambert-Sigisbert on the flamboyant lead group of the Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite for the Bassin de Neptune in the park at Versailles (1735-40) and also worked for the Rohan family at the Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, executing bas-reliefs of the Loves of the Gods (1736) in the Salon de la Princesse. He was employed by the Bâtiments du Roi at the Chambre des Comptes in Paris, at the abbey of St Denis and at Versailles, where he produced a bronze relief of the Martyrdom of Ste Victoire for the chapel (1747).

However, Nicolas-Sébastien is remembered mainly for the monument of Queen Catharina Opalinska (1749) in the church of Notre Dame de Bon Secours in Nancy. This work is considered one of the finest and most genuinely pathetic French funerary monuments of the 18th century. The art of Nicolas-Sébastien, though equally influenced by the Roman Baroque and just as versatile and polished, is more delicate and subtle than that of Lambert-Sigisbert. It was to have a marked influence on the work of Clodion.