At the Heart of Europe's History: Wonders of Old Master Sculpture

At the Heart of Europe's History: Wonders of Old Master Sculpture


T he Old Master Sculpture and Works of Art sale on 3 December at Sotheby’s covers a wide span of periods, styles and object. Ranging from medieval objets d’art, such as enamels and metalwork, to impressive Baroque and Neoclassical marbles, this collecting category is one of the broadest at Sotheby’s, and provides an opportunity to buy fascinating objects that often form key parts of European history. This December’s sale includes a particularly fine selection of carved gems, Renaissance bronzes and Baroque busts. Fascinatingly, despite objects being made many miles and centuries apart, there are themes that linger throughout history.

Maternal Affection

Maternal love is a prevalent theme throughout art history, and, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, was frequently embodied by the most popular Saint in Christianity, the Virgin Mary. Created in a variety of materials, including wood, stone, terracotta, alabaster and bronze, depicting the Virgin’s intimate connection with her Child was a way for sculptors to show a more human side of religion. A particular highlight in this sale is the important glazed terracotta relief of the Madonna adoring the Christ Child, from the workshop of famous Renaissance sculptor Andrea Della Robbia.

Gods and Emperors

Art has always been a tool used to pay tribute to religious as well as secular powers, so it is no surprise that sculptures of gods, kings and emperors form an important addition to this sale. During the Renaissance and later, the Gods and Heroes of antiquity were particular favourites. This Old Master Sculpture sale offers some outstanding marble Renaissance busts of Roman emperors, representations of mythological Gods in bronze and hardstone, and an exceptional bronze of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V by Italian sculptor Vincenzo Gemito.

Bestiary in Bronze and Hardstone

Sculpture is not always about grand subjects, and the below lots show that artists had fun creating animals in bronze. Creepy crawlies, toads, satyrs and fauns are all included in this Renaissance bestiary. Some bronzes, such as the Lion attacking a Bull and Lion attacking a Horse, show that creating these bronzes was also a way for artists to test their skill in portraying animal anatomy.

European Sculpture & Works of Art

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