A Florentine artist of superb skill, Antonio Frilli belonged to a tradition of distinguished Italian carvers that included Pietro Bazzanti, Cesare Lapini and Cesare Fantacchiotti. His successful workshop in Florence produced sculptures in marble and alabaster, concentrating on elegant compositions and decorative works for the international market, which provided Frilli’s main clientele. The sculptor and his studio also produced copies after both antique and contemporary sculpture, such as the Venus de’Medici (sold Sotheby’s London, 16 December 2015, lot 1) and Antonio Canova’s Three Graces. Frilli is first recorded as exhibiting at the Esposizione Nazionale di Roma in 1883, after which he showed in Glasgow (1888) and Paris (1889). His technical accomplishment is best represented in his Nude Reclining in a Hammock (Sotheby’s New York, 3 November 1999, lot 62), which was presented at the International Exhibition at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. In this work a female nude is perched on an elaborately embroidered counterpane in a hammock slung between two posts, seemingly without support (which is in fact subtly created by her hanging left arm).
The present marble exemplifies Frilli’s oeuvre of highly decorative female nudes. The girl’s oriental headdress and earrings recall Florentine artists’ representations of Old Testament heroines, such as Ruth or Jael, yet the eroticism of her bared flesh, partially concealed by her cloak, evokes the seduction of Arabian Nights. Suggestively lifting her veil above her head and offering a knowing smile to the viewer, the girl appears as an exotic enchantress, whose appeal is enhanced by the beautifully polished surface of the marble.
A. Panzetta, Nuovo dizionario degli scultori italiani, Turin, 2003, p. 377