mid 19th century
A. Campitelli, La Fontana dei Cavalli Marini a Villa Borghese, in Bollettino dei Musei Comunali di Roma, 1988, pp.161-170.
The present lot is based on the Fontana dei Cavalli Marini (fountain of the Sea Horses) in the Villa Borghese, Rome which was completed in 1791 by various stone carvers working under the sculptor Vincenzo Pacetti and the painter Christopher Unterpegher -reproduced here in fig 1. This commission was executed under the overall direction of Antonio Asprucci who was architect to Prince Marcantonio Borghese. The Giornale delle Belle Arti of 1781 relates how the Prince had given Unterpegher an antique cameo to use as a source of inspiration for the fountain, P. Della Pergola, Villa Borghese, Rome, 1962, p.91, fig. 215. The fountain was universally admired by connoisseurs and visitors to Rome during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thomas Hope, the famous English collector and designer of furniture and interiors, owned a simplified small white marble version of the fountain which he displayed in 1824 in the sculpture gallery at Deepdene, his country house, illustrated in a watercolour drawing of the interior ( David Watkin, Thomas Hope and the Neo-Classical Idea, London, 1968, fig. 65 and also A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, 1984, figs. 292-2)-reproduced here in figs. 2.
Not very much is known about Benedetto Boschetti, recorded 1842-1867, the artist whose signature appears on the tazza and who was clearly a craftsman of great skill. He is mentioned for the first time by Giuseppe Checchetelli in a publication of 1842 which describes the palace and villa of Principe Alessandro Torlonia. The author relates how Boschetti was already recognised as a skilled mosaicist. Three years later, in 1845, the Manuale artistico ed archeologico published in Rome, mentions Benedetto Boschetti as a mosaicist living at at via Condotti 74 ( J.B.Hartman, La Vicenda di una dimora principesca romana, Rome, 1967, pp.22, 26 and note 113). Later, in 1847, the celebrated scholar Gaetano Moroni lists him amongst other mosaicists in Rome and mentions a table top by him showing the Triumph of Love now in the Gilbert Collection, G Moroni, Dizionario di erudizone storico ecclesiastica, vol. XLV11, Venice, 1847, p.80. He is recorded as exhibiting at the celebrated Great Exhibition in London at Crystal Palace in 1851, for which he was awarded a a medal. Since then nothing more has emerged about Boschetti's career and life and the dates of his birth and death remain unknown to us. As has been seen he is recorded in the 1840's as a mosaicist, but he was clearly also able to supply works in bronze and coloured marbles. This seems to indicate that as well as being an exceptionally gifted craftsman he was also an entrepreneur in the same way that the Roman Luigi Valadier and his son Giuseppe had also been. The last recorded mention of Boschetti is found in Murray's 1867 Handbook to Rome.
This object is notable not only for the high quality of the bronze work but above all for the astonishing skill with which the tazza has been carved so thinly in rosso antico - one of the marbles most often used in ancient Rome. Boschetti's bronzes seem to share a rather light, almost golden patina which can also be seen on the tazza – an object which can be considered as emblematic of mid-nineteenth century Roman taste.
Comparative Works by B. Boschetti:
To the list of works bearing the signature 'B. Boschetti Roma', has been added, in the last few years an alabaster vase with a support incorporating rosso antico masks and the Torlonia coat of arms (the arms of Boschetti's patron for whom he worked on the Palazzo Torlonia in Piazza Venezia, demolished in the late 19th century) which appeared at auction in New York in 1998. There are also some small scale bronzes, one a version of the Belvedere Cleopatra and the other of the Praxiteles Faun in the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Other examples of his work signed B. Boschetti include a copy of the Warwick vase, carved in antico rosso in the Museum of Toledo, Ohio and a vase in the Praz Collection, Rome, illustrated In A González-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, 1984, figs. 286-287.
We are grateful to Professor Alvar González-Palacios for the above footnote, a copy of which is available in Italian from the department upon request and to Emma-Louise Bassett for the above translation into English.
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