Lot 29
  • 29

Pietro Calvi

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pietro Calvi
  • Pair of busts of Aleydah and Ben Ali-Ben Ladiar
  • both signed: Calvi and the bases inscribed ALEYDAH and BEN ALY BEN LADIAR respectively
  • Ladiar: mixed white and red marbles with bronze, dark brown patina
    Aleydah: partially gilt white marble and bronze, dark brown and gilt patinas
  • Ladiar: 72cm., 28 3/8 in.
    Aleydah: 71cm., 28in.

Catalogue Note

Pietro Calvi was a sculptor of international standing during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  He exhibited widely outside Italy and worked for a time in the United States.  His dramatic bust of Othello is one of the masterpieces of the coloured sculpture tradition.

The present busts exploit the same striking colouristic effects as the Othello, contrasting white and coloured marbles with rich bronze and gilding.  The pairing of Aleydah and Ali-Ben Ladiar was one made by the artist when he exhibited them together first in Turin in 1884 and then at the Paris Salon in 1885.

Aleydah is a character from the romantic novel El Rey Maldito by Manuel Fernandez y Gonzales (1821-1888).  Aleydah, with all her beauty, candour and purity became an Egyptian heroine and, like Aida, was of Ethiopian origin.  A bust of Aleydah was first exhibited at the Esposizione Generale Italiana, Turin and at the Reale Accademia, Milan in 1884.

Born in Milan, Calvi studied at the Accademia, but the greatest formative influence on the young artist was Giovanni Seleroni, with whom he collaborated.  It was Seleroni who encouraged Calvi's colouristic experiments.  Calvi worked, like so many of his contemporaries, on the decoration of Milan Cathedral for which he carved the statue of the Saint Valeria.  He also worked in the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele.  Most of his ideal busts explore theatrical and operatic subjects.  Selika (see lot 40, Sotheby's London, 26 November 1998) and Aida (see lot 68, Sotheby's London, 9 December 1993) are well known examples.  Calvi's American sojourn resulted in his much reproduced busts of Uncle Tom and The Minstrel (Sotheby's, London, 9 July 2002, lot 160).