Bust of Montesquieu

Replica Edmond Prévôt, after J.B Lemoyne
1878, marble, Bordeaux, Town Hall, Inv.: D.86.5.1 (on loan from the French State)

Charles de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, was the owner of five estates in Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers.

He was a magistrate, and an advisor to the Parliament of Guyenne, then president in 1716. He was also a member of the Academy of Bordeaux.

In 1721, he anonymously published Persian Letters. He was elected to the Académie française in 1728, and undertook many voyages across Europe during which he took a close interest in the functioning of constitutional monarchies. He was initiated to freemasonry in 1730.

From 1734 to 1748, he wrote The Spirit of the Laws, in which he suggested the principle of the separation of the executive, legislative and judiciary powers which served as the basis for the constitution drawn up in France in 1791.

His interest in scientific discoveries, his religious tolerance and his concern for the balance of powers made him a genuine humanist. In his writing, he revealed himself to be clearly anti-slavery, even if his irony is sometimes poorly understood. 

Bust of Montesquieu replica 1878. Photo B. Fontanel city hall of Bordeaux