Lot 116
  • 116

ATTRIBUTED TO GIACOMO SERPOTTA (1656-1732)ITALIAN, SICILY, CIRCA 1720-1730 | Europe and America

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Europe and America
  • white marble, on grey marble socles, with two wood pedestals
  • America: 106cm., 41¾in.Europe: 107cm., 42 1/8 in. pedestals: 110cm., 43¼in. each
  • Attributed to Giacomo Serpotta (1656-1732) Italian, Sicily, circa 1720-1730
the socles inscribed respectively: EVROPA and: AMERICA


Noble family, Sicily, and thence by descent to the present owners


Overall, the condition of the marble busts is very good. The marbles retain their original polished and textured surfaces. There are minor inclusions in the marbles, consistent with the material, in particular to Europe's chest and shoulders. There is minor veining to the marbles, consistent with the material, in particular at the figures' necks and to the drapery at Europe's abdomen on the proper right side. There are some more prominent, slightly open veins at America's neck. There are a few small chips to the edges of the drapery, in particular at the shoulders. There are some small chips and losses to the pinnacles of Europe's crown. Europe's nose is slightly yellowed, and there are some minor yellow patches to her throat and proper left cheek. There are various minor paint residues, including some drips of paint to Europe's drapery on the proper right hand side. There are a few minor orange marks to America's drapery at the bottom and at the proper right shoulder. The busts are roughly hewn at the reverses. There is general wear to the socles, including chips and abrasions to the edges. There are some larger losses to the upper moulding of America's socle. There are metal dowels and supports in the socles. The metal has oxidised and stained the socles orange at the reverses. There is some minor orange staining elsewhere to the socles. The titles are composed of gilt metal. The gilding has worn slightly. There is some minor greening to the metal.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

These exuberant busts personifying Europe and America find strong comparisons in the oeuvre of Giacomo Serpotta, a central figure in the cultural and artistic life of Sicily in the early 18th century. The diminutive mouths, long, thin noses, high cheekbones, and deep, arched eyebrows are typical of Serpotta's figures. Compare, for example, with the stucco Judith by Serpotta in the Oratorio di S. Cita, Palermo (1717-18; Garstang, op. cit., p. 70, fig. 67). The elaborate, structured headdresses are typical of Serpotta, who savoured decorative costume detail in his sculptural groups. For a typical example, also with the same facial features, see the figure of Wisdom in the church of Sant'Agostino, Palermo (circa 1720, Garstang, op. cit., p. 112, fig. 115).

The attribution of the present busts to Serpotta is ultimately justified by a comparison to his stucco figure of Fortitude in the church of Badia Nuova in Alcamo, executed 1723 (see Bildarchiv Foto Marburg no. fmb29127_02; Garstang, op. cit., p. 119). Compare, in particular, with the present America. Note the same posture, with shoulders thrust back - as if recoiling - extended slender neck, chin tucked in, and, again, the small mouth and wide open eyes with upward gaze. Like the Fortitude, the present America incorporates stylised feathers in the headdress (though smaller). Serpotta reused successful models and the Fortitude appears as a variant elsewhere. The comparison with the present busts is so strong that an attribution to Serpotta can be justified, with a dating to the 1720s; the artist's late period. The subjects themselves are typical of Serpotta; his oeuvre is dominated by personifications. Serpotta's marbles are fewer in number than his stucco decorations, for which he is famed, though some of his most prominent works were in marble, see the Madonna in the Collegio Massimo, Palermo (circa 1689-90; Bildarchiv Foto Marburg no. fmb29019_04). The present busts are therefore rare additions to the oeuvre of Serpotta, and, by virtue of their subjects, they symbolise the interaction between burgeoning New World and the Old. Giacomo Serpotta was the most famous member of a Sicilian dynasty of sculptors, founded by his father Gaspare (1634-1670), and continued by his son Procopio (1679-1756). He also worked with his brother Giuseppe (1653-1719). Giacomo Serpotta is celebrated for his elaborate late Baroque stucco decorations for Sicilian Oratories, notably those in the churches of Santa Cita (circa 1685–1718) and San Lorenzo (1699–1707), Palermo. They have been described by Donald Garstang as 'among the most harmonious and elegant creations of 18th-century Italy' (op. cit.). Between 1679 and 1680 he executed the model for the equestrian Statue of Charles II of Spain, which was cast in bronze by Andrea and Gaspare Romano and erected in Messina, but sadly destroyed in 1848.

D. Garstang, Giacomo Serpotta and the Stuccatori of Palermo 1560-1790, London, 1984; V. Abbate, Serpotta e il suo tempo, exh. cat, Oratorio dei Biachi, Palermo, 2017; Garstang, D. (2003). Serpotta family. Grove Art Online. Retrieved 19 May. 2018, from http:////www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000077756.