Italian, Rome, 17th century
After the Antique
bronze, on a veined grey marble socle
bronze: 45cm., 17¾in.
socle: 14cm., 5½in.
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This remarkable bust of the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander is characterised by a superb surface treatment in which the contours of the flesh have been carefully delineated by wire brushwork. Each muscle and sinew has been followed, thereby enhancing the intensity of the emotionally charged Hellenistic model. This topographical approach extends to the tufts of hair and beard, which have been followed all over with a fine matt punch, giving the bronze an almost glittering appearance. Even the eyes have been chased, lending a sense of life under the shadow of the deep ocular orbits and heavy, furrowed brow.

Topographical textured surfaces are seen in Roman bronzes from the 17th century and have their origins in Renaissance goldsmith work. Note, for example, the chased gilt-bronze saints and prophets from the Tabernacle attributed to Jacob Cobaert in the church of S. Luigi dei Francesi, Rome (Montagu, op. cit., pp. 36-46). The present bust arguably finds its closest comparisons in bronzes by the Fleming François Duquesnoy (1597-1643), whose interest in surface texture and topography has been discussed at length by Estelle Lingo (op. cit., p. 92). Delicate brushwork across the surface of the flesh is seen in the sculptor's Cherub in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum Braunschweig (inv. no. Bro 127), as well as in the Apollo and Cupid and Mercury groups in the Liechtenstein collection, Vienna (inv. nos. 610 and 611). Duquesnoy's interest in the topography of the human form is, perhaps, most evident in the torso of the monumental marble St Andrew at St Peter's Basilica, Rome, in which a claw chisel has been boldly drawn across the surface to delineate the musculature, creating a chiaroscuro effect. The wider application of chased surfaces in Roman bronzes is given testament by the bronze St Bernard of Siena, attributed to Antonio Raggi (1624-1682) and cast after or as a model for the marble in the Chigi Chapel at the church of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome, in which (in the bronze) the drapes and hair are distinguished from the skin by the use of striated brushwork and punching (offered in these rooms 10 July 2014, lot 112; Ferrari and Papaldo, op. cit., pp. 298-299). Viewed within this context, the high degree of chasing across the surface of the present bronze would indicate that the bust was cast in Rome in the mid 17th century.

The Anaximander is known principally from a marble herm bust in the Capitoline Museums, Rome (inv. no. MC553), which has been identified as Anaximander on the basis of a comparison with a relief inscribed with the philosopher's name in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (Zanker, op. cit., pp. 155-156). According to Zanker, the portrait follows a Middle Hellenistic original, i.e. one conceived between circa 220 and 150 BC, at a time when sculptors sought to ‘translate each subject's intellectual, personal, and biographical traits into a spiritual physiognomy'. The Anaximander is characterised, according to Zanker, by a 'severe and penetrating, almost fanatical intensity'. Its appeal to sculptors and collectors in Baroque Rome is, consequently, hardly surprising. The herm is first recorded in the Giustiniani collection, where it was documented by Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688) in a drawing from circa 1629/30, and identified as Diogenes, and later engraved by Michel Natalis for the Galleria Giustiniana Del Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani, Rome, 1631, pl. 34. The engraving is particularly close to the present bust, with chin pulled downwards to the right. The herm bust later entered the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani, until it was sold to Pope Clement XII in 1733 along with the rest of the collection, by which time a spurious inscription had been added identifying the bust as Epicurus. Cataloguing it in 1741, Bottari identified the sitter as the Greek orator Lysias (op. cit.).

Documented bronze representations of the Anaximander (alternately known as Diogenes, Zeno, Epicurus, and Lysias) appear to be relatively few in number, but casts have been recorded in some of the most distinguished collections of the 17th century. Hubert Le Sueur (c. 1580-1658) was responsible for a bronze version of the model, entitled ‘Zeno’, which was commissioned as part of a group of 18 Greek philosophers and writers by Charles I for St James’s Palace, 1636-1637 (inv. no. RCIN 1331). A variant of the model in bronze was formerly in the French Royal collection, No. 287, described as Tête de pseudo-Diogène and is now in the Louvre (inv. no. MR 3365), and a cast is recorded in the celebrated Galerie de Girardon (Les Bronzes de la Couronne, op. cit., p. 164). Interestingly, there exists, as one of a set of busts after the antique, a cast of the model with analogous rounded truncation (though shallower, being cut off closer to the neck), attributed to Girolamo Ferrer, cast circa 1650-1657, in the Spanish Royal Collection (inv. no. 10010397), which was recorded in the collection of Felipe IV at the Alcázar as early as 1666. Another version of the bust model, identified as Lysias, was in the A. and E. Offermann collection, Cologne (Die Beschworung des Kosmos... op. cit., pp. 81-2, no. 15; there catalogued as North Italian 16th-century). It was later sold at Sotheby’s Paris 29 March 2007, lot 18 (as North Italian, 17th century).

These varied bronze versions attest to the model's accordance with the tastes and values of 17th century princely and noble collectors. What distinguishes the present bronze from the above is the superb surface treatment, which indicates a Roman origin within the refined circle of Duquesnoy and his contemporaries, but which looks forward to the elegant busts of Emperors by Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, likewise celebrated for the brilliance of their afterwork. The Roman origin of the bust is further underscored by the fact that it follows a model which has been in Roman collections since at least the 1620s.

Galleria Giustiniana Del Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani, Rome, 1631, pl. 34; G. G. Bottari, Del Museo Capitolino, Rome, 1741; Die Beschwörung des Kosmos: Europaische Bronzen der Renaissance, exh. cat., Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg, 1994-1995, pp. 81-2, no. 15; P. Zanker, The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford, 1996, pp. 155-156; J. Montagu, Gold, Silver and Bronze: Metal Sculpture of the Roman Baroque, New Haven and London, 1996, pp. 36-46; Bronzes de la Couronne, exh. cat. musée du Louvre, Paris, 1999, p. 164; O. Ferrari and S. Papaldo, Le sculture del Seicento a Roma, Rome, 1999, pp. 298-299; E. Lingo, François Duquesnoy and the Greek Ideal, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 92; R. Coppel and M. J. Herrero Sanz (eds.), Brillos en bronce colecciones de reyes, exh. cat. Palacio Real, Madrid, 2009, pp. 91, 141-143, no. 19; A. Maral, Girardon: le sculpteur de Louis XIV, Paris, 2015, p. 391, fig. 320