Cataldi’s style was inspired by the antique: the classical mastery of beauty and idealised form were integral to his working principles. He developed a particular interest in the nude female form and incorporated into his compositions the classical ideals of balance and harmony. The present female nude simultaneously recalls several antique figures in contrapposto, notably the Mercury in the Uffizi, The Marble Faun in the Capitoline Museums, and the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican. The figure epitomises balletic poise as she places her weight on her proper right leg, whilst swinging the other in front, her right arm outstretched, and her left hand, which holds flowers, drawn up towards the shoulder. This ability to create poise and balance was what distinguished Cataldi as a master of movement and the human form in the first decades of the 20th century, and led Auguste Rodin to laud his art as 'a living expression always combined with rhythmic harmony' (Scarpa, op. cit.).
Where Cataldi innovated most successfully was in his integration of modern and decorative idioms in to the classical tenet. He was increasingly inclined towards stylish forms, where balletic nudes tested the boundaries of balance, and compositions were stronger and more intense than their classical predecessors. Cataldi's ability to imbue his nudes with graceful movement, counterbalanced by a modernist approach to the human body, is seen equally in the only other significant marble by the sculptor to have been offered on the art market in recent decades, his Medusa, which was sold in these rooms on 28 June 2007, lot 178. This figure is likewise presented on a circular base, standing before a tree stump (an implicitly classical device). However, whilst in the Medusa, the sculptor presents a deliberately muscular, almost grotesque, female (given the monstrous subject), the present Nude displays a profound sense of classical grace, with smoother, more idealised, bodily forms. Despite being static, she seems as if she might seemlessly break into an elegant dance.
The present model is the most important sculpture by Cataldi to have been offered on the art market in recent years. Long in a London private collection, the Nude preserves her beautifully polished original surface. Cataldi, like Adolfo Wildt, was a master craftsman in working marble, enabling him to achieve very particular finishes, which are integral to his works. Above all, the present Nude forms a truly exceptional composition, which expresses the elegance of antique statuary whilst evoking the contemporary styles of Italian early 20th-century modernist sculpture.
P. Scarpa, Mostra postuma dello scultore Amleto Cataldi, exh. cat. Galleria della associazione artistica, Rome, 1951; F. Cifarelli, 'CATALDI, Amleto', Dizionario Bibliografico degli Italiani, vol. 22, 1979, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/amleto-cataldi_(Dizionario_Biografico)/ accessed on 3 April 2016
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