The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 57. Italian, After the Antique, circa 1722.

Italian, After the Antique, circa 1722

Figure of Cincinnatus

Auction Closed

January 30, 06:14 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 USD

Lot Details



height 28 ½ in.; 72.39 cm.

Almost certainly acquired by Thomas, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, through the offices of his son, Lord Parker, during the latter's Grand Tour, 1720-22;

Thence by descent at Shirburn Castle;

Christie’s London, 1 December 2005, lot 80.

T. P. Connor, 'The fruits of a Grand Tour - Edward Wright and Lord Parker in Italy, 1720-22', in Apollo, July 1998, pp. 23-30.

The only terracotta sculpture known to have been in the esteemed collection of Earls of Macclesfield, the present Cincinnatus was most likely purchased during the documented Grand Tour of George Parker (circa 1720-22), the son of the 1st Earl, Thomas Parker (1666 –1732) , Lord Chancellor. The young Parker joined the influx of wealthy foreign travelers in Italy in part to purchase works of art for the castle at Shirburn, Oxfordshire which his father had just purchased.

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (b. 519 circa BCE) was a Roman general and statesmen who became famous for his service in defense of the Republic. While in retirement on his farm, Cincinnatus received news that he had been nominated by the Senate to serve as an emergency leader of the Republic, as a Roman army was surrounded by the forces of a neighboring tribe and in dire need of help. Without hesitation, Cincinnatus organized a relief expedition and defeated the enemy forces, then voluntarily relinquished power and returned to his crops.

As an exemplar of civic virtue, Cincinnatus remained a popular figure into the modern era. When a Roman statue dating back to the 2nd century AD was rediscovered during the 16th century, the figure – a man stopping to adjust his sandals – was assumed to be Cincinnatus putting on his shoes as he prepared to save Rome in her time of need. In fact, this work has now been given the title Hermes Fastening His Sandals and is believed to be a copy of a Greek bronze depicting the deity from the 4th century BCE. After being rediscovered, this statue remained out of the public eye until being transferred to the Louvre in 1792, but this composition was widely known in the intervening centuries thanks to a 1594 print that misidentified the work as a sculpture of Cincinnatus.

This print is the likely basis for the present work, which dates to the first half of the 18th century. Modelled in terracotta, this figure captures the determined expression and musculature of ‘Cincinnatus’ with accuracy and refinement.


F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique - The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, New Haven and London, 1981, no. 23.

S. Siegfried, “The Visual Culture of Fashion and the Classical Ideal in Post-Revolutionary France,” in The Art Bulletin 97, no. 1 (March 2015).