Lot 117
  • 117

Francis Harwood (1726/1727 - 1783) Italian, Florence, 1762 After the Antique

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Bust of Caracalla
  • signed and dated: Harwood. Fecit. 1762 and entitled: CARACALLA
  • white marble
  • Francis Harwood (1726/1727 - 1783) Italian, Florence, 1762 After the Antique


Hugh Honour FRSL (1927-2016) and John Fleming (1919-2001), Villa Marchiò, Tofori, Tuscany, Italy


J. Fleming and H. Honour, ‘An English Sculptor in XVIII Century Florence,’ Festschrift Ulrich Middeldorf, Berlin, 1968, pp. 510-16 (illustrated pl. CCXXIII);
F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, New Haven and Yale, 1981, p. 173, n. 15

Catalogue Note

This impressive marble bust was carved by Francis Harwood, a British 18th-century sculptor who spent most of his life working in Rome and Florence. Harwood gained an international reputation for himself by creating fashionable, brilliantly executed, library busts and figures carved after the antique. His patrons included some of the most influential collectors and tastemakers of the day, notably Catherine the Great of Russia, the 1st Duke of Northumberland, and the Neoclassical designer par excellence, Robert Adam.

Harwood's bust follows the iconic portrait of the Roman Emperor Caracalla (joint emperor AD 211-12 and emperor AD 212-17), of which the most celebrated and earliest known version is that formerly in the Farnese collection and now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples (inv. no. 6033). It is not known where or when the Caracalla was discovered, though the model was known as early as 1556 when Aldrovandi recorded examples in five Roman palazzi (Haskell and Penny, op. cit., p. 172). The model was much admired in the 17th and 18th centuries. Girardon owned a bronze copy at the end of the 17th century, and numerous high quality marble versions were executed in the 18th century. A very fine example is the bust by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716/17-1799) in the J. Paul Getty Museum (inv. no. 94.SA.46). Discussing the present bust in 1968, John Fleming and Hugh Honour attributed the fascination of 18th-century British Grand Tourists for the model to the fact that Caracalla was elected Emperor at York and, as such, had a direct connection to the British Isles. The model has long been regarded as one of the most successful Roman portraits, with Winckelmann stating that it surpassed even Lysippus. Haskell and Penny observed that 'the impact of the turned head and ferocious gaze of this bust was given great historical resonance by the fact that it represented an emperor whose murder of his own brother and whose ruthless rule were familiar to every educated European. As one looked at the bust, or rather was looked at by it ... the past suddenly and dramatically became present' (Haskell and Penny, op. cit., p. 173). Interestingly, it is thought that the portrait may have been intended to portray the emperor-god as preoccupied with his higher purpose, and was not designed to intimidate. Some scholars believe the model to be a 16th-century invention (Haskell and Penny, op. cit., p. 173).

The present bust is undoubtedly one of the finest 18th-century versions of the model. It captures the dynamic turn of the head, the furrowed brow and curled lip of the tyrant emperor. Harwood's skill as a marble carver is particularly evident in the sensitively delineated moustache and locks of hair, as well as in the folds of the cloak. Another version, dated 1763 and formerly in the collection at Finchcox, Kent, was with Daniel Katz, New York, in 2004 (op. cit., no. 30).

Relatively little is known of Harwood’s life. His biography is formed principally by a series of anecdotes and snapshots, of which the most amusing is Joseph Nollekens’ badly written line in a letter dated 1769 referring to an ‘FH… [who was] knocking the marbil about like feway [fury] & belive he as got more work to do than any One sculptor in England’ (Roscoe, op. cit., p. 584). What is clear is that Harwood spent most of his life in Italy, arriving in Rome in 1752. He subsequently settled in Florence (from 1753), where he worked in the studio of Giovanni Battista Piamontini, which he ran after the latter’s death in 1762. The awarding of a public commission for a statue of Equity to surmount the new Porta San Gallo underscores Harwood’s burgeoning status as an important sculptor. It was this commission which brought Harwood to the attention of visiting Grand Tourists and, in particular, to the British envoy and revered aesthete Horace Mann, who praised the sculptor’s talent and later gave him the commission for his own tomb. Prominent patrons included James and Robert Adam, who instructed Harwood to create the lifesize Apollo for the magnificent dining room at Syon House in Middlesex.

R. Cremoncini, 'Alcune note su Francis Harwood. La bottega di uno scultore inglese a Firenze in via della Sapienza: nella purezza del marmo, classicità e storia,' Gazzetta Antiquaria, December 1994, pp. 68-73; D. Bilbey and M. Trusted, British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2000, pp. 88-9; Daniel Katz: European Sculpture, exh. cat. Daniel Katz Ltd, New York, 2004, text Gordon Balderston, pp. 90-91, no. 30; I. Roscoe, E. Hardy and M. G. Sullivan, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660-1851, New Haven and Yale, 2009, pp. 583-5; N. Penny, 'Obituary: Hugh Honour (1927–2016)', The Burlington Magazine, 158 (2016) [available online at http://burlington.org.uk/archive/back-issues/201609, page last accessed 30/10/2017]

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.