With Andromeda and the sea monster Romanelli chose a subject that had fascinated artists since the Renaissance. The myth is best known from Ovid’s dramatic account in his Metamorphoses. The poet tells of the Aethiopean princess, whose mother, Queen Cassiopeia, boasted that her daughter was more beautiful than Poseidon’s Nereids. Enraged, the god of the sea sent a monstrous sea creature to devastate the coast of their Aethiopean kingdom. The distraught King consulted the Oracle of Apollo for guidance, only to be told that he had to sacrifice his daughter to the monster to put an end to its rampage. Chained to a rock by the coast, Andromeda was stripped naked and left to die. Ovid’s narration begins as the Medusa-slaying hero, Perseus, chances upon the girl and vanquishes the monster to win Andromeda’s hand in marriage.
While most artistic representations of the myth depict the moment in which Perseus comes to Andromeda’s rescue, Romanelli represents the maiden in the midst of her peril, seemingly setting eyes on the monster for the first time. The girl holds up her right arm in terror as the sharp-toothed head of the sea creature emerges at the bottom of her rock. Several versions of this model are known, including one which sold at Christie’s New York, 30 April 1997, and another illustrated in Panzetta (op. cit., p. 815, fig. 1606), both with variations in the monster’s position and appearance. Although a classical subject, Romanelli’s Andromeda marks a departure from the classicism of his former master, Lorenzo Bartolini. Her theatrical gesture and wildly flowing hair appear almost baroque, while Romanelli’s interest in naturalistic detail is showcased in his virtuosic carving of the monster and rockwork.
The Florentine sculptor Pasquale Romanelli achieved an international reputation for his finely carved mythological and biblical marble figures. Romanelli began his training at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence under Luigi Pampaloni but was soon taught by the foremost Tuscan neoclassical sculptor, Lorenzo Bartolini. Remaining in Bartolini’s favour, he went on to become his collaborator and, upon the master’s death in 1850, the successor of his studio. Romanelli’s mythological and allegorical compositions were highly prized by a cosmopolitan clientele, and he exhibited select models in Paris. One such work, La Delusa, which he presented in 1851, was acquired by the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. In addition to collectors’ marbles, Romanelli executed numerous important commissions for monuments, such as those to Vittorio Fossombroni in Arezzo, Masi in Pavia, and Demidoff in Florence. Romanelli’s final tribute to his master, Bartolini’s tomb monument, is housed in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. After Romanelli’s death in 1887, his son Raffaello and grandson Romano continued his legacy which lives on to the present day; the Romanelli studio, now a private museum, remains a rare survival in Florence.
A. Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario degli scultori italiani, Turin, 2003, p. 781; p. 815, fig. 1606
Carbisdale Castle: A History
Carbisdale Castle is a magnificent Scots Baronial residence situated in the heart of the Highlands, overlooking the beautiful Kyle of Sutherland. Constructed between 1906 and 1917, it was the last Castle to be built in Scotland. Its history is one of intrigue, scandal, war and peace, at the centre of which lies the formidable figure of its first resident, Mary Caroline, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland (1848-1912), the Duchess Blair. Married three times, her first husband, Captain Arthur Kindersley Blair of the 71st Highland Light Infantry Regiment, died mysteriously in a hunting accident in 1883. In the months leading up to her husband’s death, Mary Caroline had embarked on a love affair with the 3rd Duke of Sutherland. Rumour swirled around the untimely death and, according to one writer ‘the Duke was whispered to have been responsible’. When his first wife died in 1889 there was no bar to the Duke wedding his long term mistress. The two caused a major scandal by marrying only four months after the Duchess’ passing. Mary Caroline was branded the ‘Duchess Blair’ by the Victorian public, the implication being that she was a social climber.
The tale of the Duchess Blair took a further twist with the death of the Duke, since his will left her the majority of the Sutherland inheritance. His natural heirs were incensed, contesting this legacy. During the course of legal proceedings it emerged that the Dowager had destroyed documents, and she was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. An agreement was eventually reached providing the Dowager with a substantial financial settlement, including the stipulation that the family construct a residence befitting her station. The result, Carbisdale Castle, was built to her exacting standards, and, over a period of time, was gradually furnished with the magnificent collection of statuary and painting being offered in this sale. The Dowager nevertheless remained embittered by her lost inheritance and she constructed the Castle around a tower with clocks on only three sides. The wall without a clock faced Sutherland lands, illustrating the Duchess’ claim that she would not give the family the time of day.
The Castle and its collection were generously donated to its current custodians, the Scottish Youth Hostels Association (SYHA), by Captain Harold Salvesen in 1945, who had inherited it from his father, Colonel Theodore Salvesen. Scots of Norwegian descent, during the Second World War the family gave refuge to King Haakon VII of Norway at Carbisdale. It was here, in 1941, that the Norwegian King signed an agreement with the Soviet Union that Russian troops would vacate Norway after they had liberated the country from Nazi forces. From 1945 to 2010 this historic Castle, complete with a tumultuous history and said to be haunted, operated as a popular youth hostel, under the care of SYHA.
The Collection comprises an extraordinary narrative sweep which charts the development of European sculpture in the 19th century, from the elegant Neoclassicism of the early part of the century – exemplified by works such as the Venus Italica after Antonio Canova – to the fantastical Romanticism of the Belle Époque years – seen in marbles such as Pasquale Romanelli’s Andromeda and the Sea Monster. Appropriately, two of the most beautiful sculptures are the Venus by Lawrence Macdonald and the Nymph at the Stream by David Watson Stevenson, two leading Scottish sculptors. Wider British sculpture is represented by Henry Weekes’ The Young Naturalist with its girl with billowing hair and its rocky base with intricately carved seaweeds. Carbisdale is the quintessential Victorian collection, a point underlined by the presence of two charming satyr’s by Emil Wolff, one of Queen Victoria’s favourite artists. The wonderful array of pictures, most of which are quality 19th-century copies of Old Masters or original British landscapes, hints at the Duchess Blair’s desire to recreate the splendour that she had lost with the death of her husband, whose own Bridgewater Collection, was one of the greatest in Europe.
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