Lot 34
  • 34

A Monumental Marble Bust of Zeus or Asklepios, the Head Roman Imperial, 2nd Century A.D., the Socle, Shoulders, and Restorations circa 1780s, attributed to Vincenzo Pacetti (1746-1820)

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • A Monumental Marble Bust of Zeus or Asklepios
  • marble
  • Height of head approx. 16 in. 40.6 cm.; total height 28 1/2 in. 72.4 cm.
after a Greek original in bronze of the 5th Century B.C., turned to his right, with thick unruly beard of deeply drilled curls, long moustache, outlined full parted lips, and finely arched brows, his hair radiating from the crown and falling in a mane of loose curls over the ears and nape of the neck.


the head reproduced in terracotta, plaster, and marble in 1784 in Rome by the antiquarian and restorer Vincenzo Pacetti (1746-1820), who may have owned it himself at the time
the art dealer Louis Meier, 23 Cecil Court, London, 1940s
the portrait photographer Angus McBean (1904-1990), Flemings Hall, Bedingfield, Suffolk, acquired from the above in 1948
David Ball, Guildhall, Debenham, by inheritance
Peter Hone, London, acquired from the above circa 2001


"Angus McBean: Portraits," National Portraits Gallery, London, July 5th - October 22nd, 2006
Galerie Chenel, "Fusion," Paris, May 15th – July 19th, 2014


Adrian Woodhouse, Angus McBean, London, Melbourne, and New York, 1982, pl. 66 (1948 Christmas card, partial view with half of A. McBean’s face inserted)
Terence Pepper, ed., Angus McBean: Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2006, p. 160, pl. 85 (1948 Christmas Card)
Adrian Woodhouse, Angus McBean: Face-maker, London, 2006, pp. 234 and 379
Alexander James, "Minimalism? What’s that?", The Times, Weekend Magazine, Jun 16th, 2012 (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article3442079.ece#tab-4)
Galerie Chenel, Paris, Fusion, exh. cat., 2014, no. 16


Restored in marble are the tip of the nose and an area on the proper left side encompassing the outer half of the eye, the brow, half of the forehead, and three layers of curls above. This masterful restoration made in one piece appears to be made of the same marble as the rest of the head and the stone for it could have been removed from the underside of the neck when the latter was shaved flat for attachment to the modern bust. At some stage this area of restoration appears to have been removed and was glued back in with epoxy. In recent restoration work the join was cleaned and white water-based fill was inserted. The inside of the proper left eye was painted with water-based pigment to tone down a small area of dark staining. Most of the marble restorations to the end of the curls in the beard and hair are now lost, leaving the flat modern surface and pinholes exposed. Only two small restored curls are left in place: one at the bottom of the proper left side of the beard and one at the bottom of the hair against the proper left side of the neck. Note small chip on the middle of the upper lip, as well as light staining on part of lower lip and area immediately below. A shallow chip on the proper left cheek has been filled in and overpainted. Overall surface slightly weathered. Areas of dark gypsum deposit on the side of the neck and beard and underside of the beard, probably the result of exposure to the elements when the object was displayed outside in an English garden. Top and back of hair carved more schematically than the front. Crown of hair appears to be abraded. 18th- century socle, plinth, and shoulders in very good condition except for lightly abraded edges. Please note that both the Italian terracotta head and Italian marble bust, currently on exhibition and illustrated on page 34 of the print catalogue, will be available for private sale exclusively to the successful bidder of Lot 34. The fixed prices are $40,000 for the terracotta head, and $120,000 for the marble bust, excluding the Buyer's Premium.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

-Head, modello, to scale (Drouot, Paris, December 2014)

-Vincenzo Pacetti, 1784/ 1785, restored head of a Roman marble statue of Asklepios, Tempio di Esculapio, Giardino del Lago, Villa Borghese, Rome: A. Cipriani et. al., eds., I Giornali di Vincenzo Pacetti, Roma, 1771-1819, Rome, 2011, 38r (08.07.1784), 38r (12.07.1784), 46v (23.12.1784), 56r (21.06.1785), 56r (23.06.1785); P. Arndt – W. Amelung, eds, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen Antiker Sculpturen, München 1893-1947, no. 2789; http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilderbestand/815675)
-Probably Vincenzo Pacetti, 1781, restored head of a Roman marble seated figure of Zeus, once Borghese Collection, Musée du Louvre, inv. No. MA 2289, on loan to the National Museum, Warsaw, inv. no. 143404 (T. Mikocki, Les sculptures mythologiques et décoratives dans les collections polonaises, 1994, pp. 35f., no. 21, pl. 13)
-Restored head of a Roman marble standing figure of Zeus, once in the Richelieu Collection, now Matsuoka Museum, Japan (A. Post, Römische Hüftmantelstatuen, Mùˆnster, 2004, p. 425, no. V16, pl. 14d)
-Bust, height of head 33 cm., Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, acquired in Rome from Ignazio Vescovali in 1822/ 1823 (E. Angelicoussis, The Woburn Abbey Collection of Classical Antiquities, Mainz am Rhein, 1992, p. 72, no. 56, figs. 261f.; http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/objekt/31920)
-Bust, exact copy to scale, late 18th /early 19th Century (Christie's, New York, Country House Elegance: An Architectural Vision, November 21st, 2011, lot 1019, illus. (http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/sculptures-statues-figures/two-white-marble-busts-italian-first-half-5506758-details.aspx)
-Head, Museo Archeologico, Florence (F. Paolucci – A. Romualdi, eds, L’antiquarium di Villa Corsini a Castello, Florence, 2010, p. 102, no. 57, illus.)

-Head (front only), 39 cm. high, Archäologisches Institut Göttingen, plaster cast collection, inv. A 296, acquired in 1856 (K. Fittschen, ed. Verzeichnis der Gipsabgüsse des Arch. Inst. der G.-A.-Univ. Göttingen, 1990, p. 81, no. A296, pl. 10; http://viamus.uni-goettingen.de/fr/mmdb/k, search for “woburn“)
-Bust, Achilleion Palace, Corfu (A. Dierichs, Korfu – Kerkyra, Mainz, 2004, fig. 116)
-Bust (2x), Archäologisches Institut Zürich, plaster cast collection, inv. no. 693. 1329 (C. Zindel, Verzeichnis der Abgüsse und Nachbildungen in der Arch. Sammlung der Univ. Zürich, 1998, pp. 130. 263, no. 693. 1329, pl. 6)
-Bust, Royal Cast-collection, Copenhagen, inv. KAS 271 (http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/search-smk/#/detail/KAS271)
-Bust or head, Thorvaldsen-Museum, Copenhagen, inv. L100. (J. Zahle, Thorvaldsens afstbninger efter antikken og renaessancen, Copenhagen, 2012)
-Bust (partial), plaster or resin - available for purchase online (https://www.ancientsculpturegallery.com/zeus-bust.html)

-Drawing of bust from plaster cast catalogue: Carl Rost, Abgüsse antiker moderner Statuen, Figuren, Büsten, Basreliefs (...) in der Rostischen Kunsthandlung zu Leipzig, 1786 (illus. in 1794 edition, pl. 33). For a complete facsimile of the plates see C. Schreiter, Antike um jeden Preis. Gipsabgüsse und Kopien antiker Plastik am Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts, Berlin/Boston, 2014, pp. 670-690.
-Charles le Carpentier (1744-1822), "Tête de Jupiter antique," graphite on paper, 53.7 by 40 cm., first quarter of the 19th century, Musée d'art, histoire et archéologie, Évreux, inv. no. (Dessins d'Eure et d'ailleurs: collection des dessins du XIXème siècle au musée: Musée de l'Ancien Evêché, Évreux, 2001, pp. 42-43 (http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/image/joconde/0042/m070304_0000605_p.jpg)

-Spanish School, 19th Century (Sotheby's, London, The Collection of Gianni Versace. Villa Fontanelle, Moltrasio, March 18th, 2009, no. 436)
-Giorgio de Chirico, Il sogno trasformato, oil on canvas, 1908
-Giorgio de Chirico, The Transformed Dream, 1913, The City Art Museum, St. Louis
-Giorgio de Chirico, The Philosopher’s Promenade, 1914, Collection of the Vicomte Charles de Noailles, Paris
-Giorgio de Chirico, Trofeo con Giove, oil on canvas, 1929/ 1930 (http://www.engramma.it/eOS2/image/104/104_Santoro_dechirico_12_13.jpg)
-Giorgio de Chirico, Composizione con testa di Giove, oil on canvas, 1942, Musée d'art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (http://www.fondazionedechirico.org/wp-content/uploads/Inv.-371-e1319718458381.jpg)

-Angus McBean, Darling, We Must Be in Battersea Park! (1948 Christmas card with self-portrait as Roman bust), double exposure, bromide print, National Portrait Gallery, London, inv. no. NPG P935 (T. Pepper, ed.,  Angus McBean: Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2006, p. 160, pl. 85; http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw57959/)
-Angus McBean, Portrait of Jane Wyman, 1949

Paradoxically, the present head is one of the most widely known and distributed images of an ancient bearded god in the modern Western world, yet the existence and location of the original could not be ascertained until very recently.

The head was first recorded as having been used as a model for restorations by the acclaimed restorer Vincenzo Pacetti (1746-1820) in Rome, the same sculptor who restored the Barberini Faun and the Hope Dionysos. It is likely that he himself was responsible for the head's highly sensitive and careful restorations, and his workshop for the bust and socle. He may even have been the sole owner of the bust, allowing him to reproduce it in any medium and as many times as needed without having to pay royalties to a private owner, as was customary at the time.

Pacetti used the head as a model to restore a colossal headless statue of Asklepios erected in 1786 in the Villa Borghese gardens, which is still to be seen there today towering over the lake. A few years earlier, he probably also made a very precise copy of the present head for a life-size seated statue of a Zeus, formerly in the Borghese Collection and now in Warsaw. Pacetti’s workshop can probably be associated with the numerous plaster casts and other marble copies of the present head and bust in existence.

Drawings and paintings also attested to the fame of the head throughout the late 18th and 19th century, but its whereabouts remained unknown until it was photographed as a prop by Angus McBean in London in 1948 and 1949.

The present head is a Roman Imperial copy of a late Hellenistic bronze statue of the god, probably seated. The outlined lower lip is a direct quotation of the inlaid copper lips which would have been used on the bronze original. No other ancient Roman copies are known.

With regard to scale, hairstyle, and overall style, the so-called Giove della Valle (H. Stuart Jones, A catalogue of the ancient sculptures preserved in the public collections of Rome, vol. I: The Sculptures of the Museo Capitolino, Oxford, 1912, p. 120, no. 47, pl. 31: http://www.araldodeluca.com/root/archivio/scheda.asp?img=4121) is an apt comparison. The upswept, centrally parted hair above the forehead is reminiscent of portraits of Alexander the Great (cf. especially the Azara-type: R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Royal Portraits, Oxford and New York, 1988, p. 155, no. 1, pl. 1); therefore an early Hellenistic date seems appropriate for the original.

The lack of other copies forbids identification of the subject (Zeus or Asklepios?). Comparable statues, especially the Marbury Zeus in Malibu (The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection, Los Angeles, 2002, pp. 150f.), make it likely that the present head belonged to a seated statue.