the female figure seated, with left knee raised, head and arms missing
Angerstein Collection, London;
Heseltine Collection, around 1888;
Paget Collection, around 1912;
P. C. Wilson Collection;
with the dealer John Hewett;
Private collection, London
J.P. Heseltine, Trifles in Sculpture. From the collection of J.P.H., London, 1916, no.23;
C. Avery & A.Radcliffe, Giambologna 1529-1608, sculptor to the Medici, London, 1978, no. 248, p. 233
C. Avery, 'Giambologna's 'Bathsheba': an early marble statue rediscovered', Burlington Magazine, vol.CXXV, no.963, June 1983, pp.340-349; P. Fogelman, P. Fusco & M. Cambareri, Italian and Spanish Sculpture catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection, Los Angeles 2002, pp.84-96, no.12
The anecdote of the aged Michelangelo taking a bozzetto from the youthful Giambologna and rapidly remodelling it before handing it back saying 'now go off and learn to model first, before trying to finish anything' is often cited in connection with discussions about the relatively large survival of Giambologna models in wax and clay. In fact only ten wax bozzetti of mythological subjects are known.
These waxes vary in treatment and size, ranging from 9.2 to 52.5cm. The largest examples, the Rape of the Sabine in the V&A, Architecture (ex-Sotheby's 4 July 1996, lot 38), the Hercules and the Hydra in the Donazione Loeser, Florence and the Seated Woman in the Louvre all have a relatively high degree of finish in the anatomy and more or less approximate finished compositions (or in the case of the Louvre Seated Woman, the wax is a mirror image of a completed model). Architecture is unusual in being a hollow cast, whilst the Louvre figure is gilded and the surface reworked, giving little indication of the sculptor's finishing.
By contrast, the remaining six wax bozzetti, all less than 22cm in height, are handled in a more spontaneous and preparatory manner. Of these, three relate to models current in Giambologna's oeuvre- Florence triumphant over Pisa, Hercules and the Centaur and the Rape of the Sabine, whilst two others A standing woman and Astrology do not correspond with known works.
The present model of a Female figure differs from all the other waxes in that although it relates to an identified, finished marble by Giambologna, the Female Figure in the Getty Museum (82.SA.37), the composition is unknown in any other versions, in any material, by any of Giambologna's Florentine followers or in the extensive corpus of French bronzes after his models. The Getty marble was given by Francesco de'Medici (1541-1581) to the Duke of Bavaria and so must have left Florence before 1581 and was therefore not part of the well-rehearsed Giambologna repertoire.
The first definite documentary reference to the Getty marble is in a letter of 1635 referring to the art taken from the Bavarian ducal collections by King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden in 1632. There it is identified as representing Bathsheba. Avery, however, published it as Psyche in his 1987 monograph, while the Getty catalogue returns to a more generalised title of Female Figure, possibly Venus, which Keutner favoured based on the list of female figures in Raffaello Borghini's 1584 life of Giambologna. The only known replicas of the Getty marble are a bronze and plasters made in the late 17th century but which appear not to have been known outside Sweden. Back in Florence the Female Figure was absent from Giambologna's stock of models which were all so admired and freely copied by his many followers in the structured Medici workshop system.
Although the recent Giambologna exhibition has postulated some questions on the attribution of the wax bozzetti, the fact that the present wax figure relates to a composition which seems to have been unknown in Florence from as early as 1580 surely rules out the theory that this could be simply a later studio assistant's exercise. In addition it is interesting to note that the unusual surface condition of this wax with various cracks to the hard top layer is closely comparable to the Hercules and Hydra included in the recent exhibition.
C. Avery, 'La cera sempre aspetta: wax models for sculpture', Apollo, CXIX, March 1984, pp, 166-176; Giambologna gli dei, gli eroi Genesi e fortuna di uno stile europeo nella scultura, ex. cat. Florence, 2006, pp.45-61
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