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41

Northern Italian, 17th century

Epicurus

Northern Italian, 17th century

Northern Italian, 17th century

Epicurus

Epicurus

Northern Italian, 17th century

Epicurus


brown patinated bronze head, on a grey marble base

H. 49 cm ; 19⅓ in.

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Italie du Nord, XVIIe siècle

Epicure


tête en bronze à patine brune, sur un socle en marbre gris

H. 49 cm ; 19⅓ in.

Very good condition overall, with very minor surface dirt and some vert de gris in the crevices, consistent with age, and a few casting flaws at several places, consistent with the casting technique.


"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."

Related Literature

H. Stuart Jones, The Sculptures of the Museo Capitolino, Oxford, 1912, pp. 255, no. 88.

Pierre Puget, Peintre, sculpteur, architecte 1620-1694, exh. cat. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, 1994, pp. 106-107.

A. Maral, Girardon : le sculpteur de Louis XIV, Paris, 2015, pp. 391, fig. 320.


Remarkable for the intensity and severity of his gaze, this bronze head portraying the Greek philosopher Epicurus (c. 341–270 BCE) was unquestionably made at the end of the seventeenth century in the north of Italy. Although the name of the philosopher is inscribed on a label on the pedestal, this bronze was inspired by an antique herm bust in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, now identified as the portrait of Anaximander of Miletus, a Pre-Socratic philosopher of the sixth century BCE (Hall of Philosophers, inv. no. MC553).


This discrepancy between the present bronze and its model is easily explained in the context of the history of the antique bust, whose identity has fluctuated over time. In the modern era, the marble was first recorded in the collection of the Roman banker Vincenzo Giustiniani (1564–1637), when it was associated with Diogenes. The bust was subsequently owned by the cardinal Alessandro Albani, before joining Pope Clement XII's collection in 1733, described as Epicurus. A later comparison with a classical relief depicting Anaximander enabled it to be conclusively identified (Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, inv. no. 506). The striking portrait, distinguished by its expressive and solemn character, was a source of inspiration for many artists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


In this context, an Italian seventeenth century bronze formerly in the French royal collection is a variant on the antique model (Collection de la Couronne, no. 287, Musée du Louvre, inv. no. MR3365). The sculptor François Girardon owned a very similar head, described as Diogenes, as can be seen in the engraving of his famous gallery (engraving by Chevallier & Charpentier, circa 1710). The sculptor Pierre Puget drew on the model for the present bronze in his almost identical Head of a Philosopher, signed, dated and located in 1662, during a brief period in Rome before he settled in Genoa (Cleveland Museum of Art, inv. no. 69 121). A portrait in bronze after the antique, close to the present bust and attributed to Girolamo Ferrer, circa 1650–57, is in the Spanish royal collection (inv. no 10010397). A portrait identified as Lysias was in the former Offermann collection in Cologne (cf. exh. cat. Die Beschwörung des Kosmos, Duisburg, 1995, no. 15).

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Références bibliographiques

H. Stuart Jones, The Sculptures of the Museo Capitolino, Oxford, 1912, pp. 255, no. 88.

M.-P. Vial (dir.), Pierre Puget, Peintre, sculpteur, architecte 1620-1694, cat. exp. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, 1994, pp. 106-107.

A. Maral, Girardon : le sculpteur de Louis XIV, Paris, 2015, pp. 391, fig. 320.


Remarquable par l’intensité et la sévérité de son regard, cette tête en bronze représentant le philosophe grec Épicure (c. 341-270 av. J.-C.) fut très certainement réalisée à la fin du XVIIe siècle dans le nord de l’Italie. Bien que le nom du philosophe soit inscrit sur le cartouche surmontant le piédouche, notre bronze s’inspire d’un antique en hermès conservé au musée Capitolin de Rome, aujourd’hui identifié comme étant le portrait d’Anaximandre de Milet, philosophe présocratique du VIe siècle avant notre ère (Salles des philosophes, inv. no. MC553).


Cette discordance d’identité entre notre bronze et son modèle s’explique aisément au regard de l’histoire du buste antique dont l’identification a été fluctuante. A l’époque moderne, la première trace du marbre est à trouver dans la collection du banquier romain Vincenzo Giustiniani (1564-1637), où il est associé à Diogène. Le buste appartient ensuite au cardinal Alessandro Albani, avant d’intégrer en 1733 les collections du pape Clément XII sous l’identité d’Épicure. C’est la comparaison plus tardive avec un relief antique représentant Anaximandre qui permettra de lui donner son identification définitive (Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, inv. no. 506). Le portrait saisissant par son expressivité et sa solennité fut une source d’inspiration pour divers artistes au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle.


A cet égard, les collections royales françaises conservaient un bronze italien du XVIIe siècle, variant sur le modèle antique (Collection de la Couronne, n° 287, musée du Louvre, inv. no. MR3365). Le sculpteur François Girardon (1628-1715) possédait une tête très similaire décrite comme Diogène, présente dans sa célèbre galerie, comme en atteste la gravure de Chevallier (d'après les dessins de Charpentier, vers 1710, fig. 1). Un portrait antique en bronze proche de notre buste, attribué à Girolamo Ferrer, vers 1650-57, se trouve dans les collections royales d’Espagne (inv. no 10010397). Un portrait identifié comme Lysias, appartint à l’ancienne collection Offermann à Cologne (cf. Cat. exp. Die Beschwörung des Kosmos, Duisburg, 1995, no. 15). Enfin, le sculpteur Pierre Puget a repris, presque à l’identique, le modèle de notre bronze dans sa Tête de philosophe, signée, datée et localisée en 1662 lors d’un bref séjour à Rome avant son installation à Gênes (Cleveland Museum of art, inv. no. 69 121).