T his July’s sale of 19th & 20th Century Sculpture presents a diverse array of statuary from the neoclassical and the Romantic periods, through to early 20th century modernism. Masterpieces in marble include Pio Fedi’s arresting Cleopatra, the quintessentially romantic Reading Girl by Antonio Rossetti, and a rare marble Nymph by the French sculptor Julien-Charles Dubois. An exquisite selection of bronzes is led by Prince Paul Troubetzkoy’s beautiful Mother and Child and two of Alfred Gilbert’s ‘autobiographical’ bronzes, Comedy and Tragedy and Perseus Arming.
With an emphasis on naturalistic poses and subjects from poetry and mythology, the New Sculpture movement invigorated British sculpture in the late 19th century. Two great exponents of the movement are featured in this sale with some of their most iconic models. A version of Frederic Lord Leighton’s languidly elegant The Sluggard is joined by two of Alfred Gilbert’s ‘autobiographical bronzes’: Comedy and Tragedy and Perseus Arming, both casts commissioned by the sculptor’s patron, Douglas Illingworth.
In the later nineteenth century, a small number of women boldly entered the male-dominated profession of sculpture. Perhaps the most notorious was the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, who made sculpture her secondary career in the 1870s. Despite resistance and ridicule from chauvinistic contemporaries, she went on to exhibit her work at the Paris Salon to considerable acclaim. The Swiss-born Adèle d’Affry, Duchess Castiglione-Colonna chose the male pseudonym ‘Marcello’ when she made her Salon debut in 1863. With her bust of Bianca Capello, of which a version is offered in this sale, she caused a sensation and earned the respect of her male colleagues. Marcello enjoyed a successful career as a sculptor, but as both a woman and a member of the aristocracy, she occasionally struggled to receive due recognition.
The Animalier tradition in sculpture began in the Romantic period with Antoine-Louis Barye, who inspired later generations of sculptors with his naturalistically observed and dramatic representations of animals. Occasionally he introduced a human element to his subjects, as in his bronze of the mythological hero Theseus fighting the Minotaur. Sculptors in the early 20th century continued in the Animalier tradition but introduced a more modernist aesthetic. Albéric Collin’s Baboon shows a highly stylised anatomy, while in his sensuous depiction of Leda and the Swan, Ary Bitter translates the Art Deco idiom into sculpture.