Superbly carved, with beautiful contrasting polished and textured surfaces, this remarkable marble by Vittorio Caradossi is a testament to the exceptional abilities of Italian 19th-century sculptors to carve marble to dazzling effect. The group is indebted to Renaissance and Neoclassical precedents, showing both Caradossi's erudition and his skill as a marble carver. The nymph recalls, in her pose, the figure of Deianira from Giambologna's Nessus and Deianira
group, one of the most celebrated Florentine Mannerist models. The Chimera, on the other had, with its fearsome expression, is indebted to the sculptures of leopards created by Francesco Antonio Franzoni (1734-1818), of which the most famous is in the Sala degli Animali
in the Vatican, although the present Chimera is particularly close to a leopard attributed to Franzoni in the Honolulu Museum of Art (inv. no. 3240.1). In combining a young nude with a mythical creature, the present marble is reminiscent of Caradossi's Leda and the Swan
, of which a version was sold at Christie's London for £194,500 against an estimate of £80,000-120,00 on 6 March 2014, lot 150.
Vittorio Caradossi was born in Florence and studied sculpture under Augusto Rivalta at the Accademia di Belle Arti. His genre epitomizes fin-de-siècle
Tuscan sculpture. Technically superb, most of his oeuvre
is dominated by highly-decorative groups and single nude figures in various symbolic or allegorical guises. In works such as Tre Nereidi
(Three Mermaids), Il Fumo che sale verso le Nubi (Smoke Sweeping up to the Clouds),
and Shooting Stars,
Caradossi was clearly catering to a strong demand from an international clientele for elaborate and sensual compositions. Sotheby's achieved the record for the sculptor with his Shooting Stars which sold at Sotheby's New York on 8 November 2013, lot 12, for $689,000 against an estimate of $300,000-500,000.
A. Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario degli scultori Italiani dell'ottocento e del primo novecento, Turin, 2003, p. 200