PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE HUGH HONOUR & JOHN FLEMING
More commonly paired with the Borghese Vase, the Medici Vase was one of the popular models cast by the Zoffoli brothers, and was included in their list of bronzes on offer, first published by Hugh Honour in 1961 (Honour, op. cit. p. 205). The antique, restored, version is still part of the collection of the Uffizi galleries. First recorded in 1598 in the inventory of the Villa Medici in Rome, it was moved to Florence in 1780 and displayed very soon afterwards. The frieze on this vase is probably a depiction of the story of Iphigenia at Aulis, with Achilles, Odysseus and Agamemnon being some of the figures identified on this vase (Haskell and Penny, op. cit. p. 316).
The second vase in the present lot is harder to identify. Although the iconography seems to be of a Bacchic procession, like the famous Borghese vase, it is not the same one. By process of elimination, comparing to the Zoffoli catalogue, it may be identified as either the Vaso di Villa Albani or the Vaso di Villa Giustiniani.
H. Honour, 'Bronze Statuettes by Giacomo and Giovanni Zoffoli', The Connoisseur, November 1961, pp. 198-205; F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique, the Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900, London, 1982, pp. 314-316
The Late Hugh Honour and John Fleming
This elegant collection of Grand Tour bronzes and marbles was formed by the art historians and Italophiles, the late Hugh Honour and John Fleming. Together they wrote the famous A World History of Art, still one of the standard texts for any aspiring art historian, whilst Honour’s witty Companion Guide to Venice (1965) is still enjoyed by visitors to the Serenissma to this day. Honour was a leading authority on Antonio Canova and Neoclassicism. In Honour’s obituary for the Burlington Magazine, Nicholas Penny writes that he was able to ‘transform the reputation of one of the greatest of all European artists’ and brought his elegant and reliable knowledge to an increasingly wider audience throughout his life.
The collection includes a rare autograph Caracalla by Francis Harwood, the British sculptor who lived in Florence, supplying high quality marbles to Grand Tourists and royalty, including Catherine the Great of Russia. The larger portion of the collection includes one of the most important groupings of Zoffoli bronzes to have come to market, the majority of which were published by Honour in his defining article on the Zoffoli workshop: 'Bronze Statuettes by Giacomo and Giovanni Zoffoli', The Conoisseur, November 1961 pp. 198-205.
Earlier this year Sotheby’s sold John Deare’s magisterial Eleanor and Edward from Hugh Honour and John Fleming’s collection, Treasures, 5 July 2017, lot 35. It is a great privilege for Sotheby’s to offer the wider collection of two of the most respected Italophile British art historians of the 20th century.
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