This serene marble is a significant, unique work by the celebrated Brescian Romantic sculptor, Giovanni Battista Lombardi. Commissioned by Signora Camilla Facchi Fè D’Ostiani (1834-1901), the statue was executed by Lombardi in 1858 and installed among the ‘golden walls’ of the baths at Palazzo Facchi in Brescia. Causing a stir in the local press, the marble inspired an elaborate ekphrasis in the Brescian newspaper L’Alba, which contained such poetic exclamations as '... her beautiful nudity, the kind which, rather than the senses, inebriates the soul with soothing ideas' (Fedrigolli, op. cit., p. 131).
Lombardi’s beautiful Nymph merges classical simplicity with romantic sentiment. The young girl, with idealised features, is captured in the act of entering a stream of water, nude but for a drape, which she is seen removing from her thigh. Gazing at the water below, she displays her intricately carved pearl diadem centred by a shell, which indicates her mythological status. Feeling the cold water on her toes, the girl appears to hesitate, hovering her left hand in front of her body, in an imitation of the pudica gesture seen in Roman Venuses. The harmony of the composition allows for a full appreciation in the round; the girl’s wavy tresses and graceful forms creating a supremely elegant rear view.
Following his studies in his hometown of Rezzato and in Milan, Lombardi moved to Rome around 1850. Here he studied at the Accademia under Pietro Tenerani, one of Thorvaldsen's leading followers, and later worked in his studio. Lombardi soon established a productive studio of his own, which he shared with his younger brother, Giovita. Giovanni Battista was the more inventive of the pair, producing fine busts, funerary and commemorative sculpture, as well as large subject pieces, both religious and profane. Distinguished by his fine ability in handling large marble compositions, Lombardi became known for his female biblical subjects, in which he subtly blends classicism with naturalism, and reserve with allure. One such masterpiece, Ruth, sold in these rooms on 6 December 2011 as lot 99.
Lombardi’s technical excellence is exhibited by the present marble, whose finely carved features and hair, confident handling of the ideal female anatomy, and classical folds of drapery recall the sculptor's prestigious Roman training. Note also the delicacy of the carving of the running water over the Nymph’s toes, a feature which would have mirrored the experience of a visitor to the baths at Palazzo Facchi.
A. Panzetta, Nuovo Dizionario degli Scultori Italiani, Turin, 2003, p. 520; A. Conconi Fedrigolli, Giovanni Battista Lombardi (1822-1880), Brescia, 2006