FRENCH, CIRCA 1675-1725,
AFTER THE ANTIQUE
BUST OF EMPEROR SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS (145-211 C.E.)
white marble, on a white marble socle
bust: 66cm., 26 in.
socle: 14cm., 5½in.
Overall the condition of the bust is very good with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There are a number of minor naturally occurring inclusions, in particular to the drapery at the proper right side. There is some paint residue to the back. There is very minor natural veining to the marble. The socle is a resin replacement.
"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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
This intriguing bust relates to a bronze bust of Hannibal which is depicted in Nicolas Chavalier's engravings of the Galerie de Girardon (Bnf, inv. no. FOL-AA-56). The bronze is known in two versions, one in the Biblothèque Mazarine in Paris, and the other in the Museum of Antiquities, University of Saskatchewan (the latter bust was later owned by Napoleon Bonaparte). These busts are believed to have been made by François Girardon or his pupil Sébastien Slodtz and they appear to relate to the full length portrait of the Carthaginan general executed by Slodtz after a model by Girardon in 1722 and now in the musée du Louvre (inv. no. MR2093). The identification of the model as Hannibal is possibly explained by a drawing of the same man in the Louvre by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) which bears the inscription 'Hannibal' (Deux têtes dites d'Hannibal, musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. 28242). The sitter of the original portrait from which this derives is nonetheless unlikely to be Hannibal and is today identified as the Emperor Septimius Severus. The present bust, along with the Le Brun and Girardon models, was probably inspired by a 17th-century marble after the antique (circa 1676-1700) which is now in the gardens at Versailles. (inv. no. 1850.9370; MR250); a very similar bust is at Wilton House. Whether or not the Versailles bust was inspired by ancient portraits of Septimius Severus is nonetheless an open question. It indeed recalls a portrait bust of the Emperor in the Louvre (inv. no. MA 1120) but lacks the Emperor's characteristic fringe. An alternative identification as Antoninus Pius should be considered. Compare, for example, with the 2nd-century C.E. bust of this Emperor in the Museo Archeologico in Naples (inv. no. 6031).
Regardless of the identification of the sitter, the present bust certainly relates to the Girardon model in that it is adorned with a near identical mask to that seen on the bronze busts of Hannibal. Furthermore, the mask is very similar to a design by Girardon on a decorative shield on his Fontaine de la Renommée of 1676 (Souchal supplementary volume, op. cit, pp. 99-100, no. 39). An attribution to a sculptor working within Girardon's immediate orbit therefore seems justifiable.
F. Souchal, Les Slodtz sculpteurs et décorateurs du Roi (1685-1764), Paris, 1967, F. Souchal, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th centuries. The reign of Louis XIV, vol. iii, Oxford, 1987p. 274, no. 5; F. Souchal, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th centuries. The reign of Louis XIV, supplementary volume, London and Boston, 1993, pp. 99-100, no. 39