S otheby’s July sale of Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art is led by three exceptional Renaissance and Baroque bronzes: A powerful Hercules Farnese attributed to Giovanni Francesco Susini, a version of Alessandro Algardi’s celebrated Baptism of Christ, and a newly discovered bronze of Diana and her hounds by Giuseppe Piamontini. These are joined by diverse masterpieces from the Middle Ages to Neoclassicism, including a superb, rediscovered terracotta group of Silenus and putti by Louis-Félix Delarue, and two marble reliefs of Emperors which are new additions to the oeuvre of Gregorio di Lorenzo.
This July’s sale of Old Master Sculpture brings together three exceptional bronzes from Mannerism to the Late Baroque, presenting a unique opportunity for collectors.
The success of Giambologna gave rise to a thriving production of bronze sculpture in early 17th-century Florence, catering to a princely clientele. Attributed to Giambologna’s pupil Giovanni Francesco Susini, lot 39 is a beautifully worked reduction of one of the most iconic Roman antiquities, the Farnese Hercules.
In Baroque Rome, Alessandro Algardi was the greatest rival of Gianlorenzo Bernini. From the celebrated collection of D.G. Beuningen, lot 58 is one of few privately owned bronze versions of Algardi’s Baptism of Christ, which he modelled for Pope Innocent X in 1646.
The early 18th century saw a second golden age for small bronze sculpture in Florence. Lot 66, a newly discovered bronze of Diana by Giuseppe Piamontini, epitomises the exuberant inventiveness of the Late Baroque.
The sale includes a rediscovered masterpiece of French 18th-century sculpture by Louis-Félix Delarue, who had a major influence on his contemporary Clodion. The group, which is inspired by Jacob Jordaens’ Silenus and the Four Seasons, shows the inebriated follower of Dionysos seated and seemingly engulfed by frolicking putti. The group was owned by two of the great French 18th-century collectors: Pierre Paul Louis Randon de Boisset, and, subsequently, Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Lebrun. With its swirling layers of putti and infant satyrs in both bas-relief and three dimensions, the Randon de Boisset Silenus anticipates Clodion’s celebrated dionysiac compositions, with which it merits comparison.
From the devotional intensity of religious subjects, to the powerful all’antica imagery favoured by the elite, Renaissance interiors abounded with sculptural masterpieces. In this sale, a beautiful terracotta relief of the Virgin and Child shows the influence of Donatello’s pioneering naturalism, while a rare bronze bust associated with Simone Bianco provides a glimpse into a humanist scholar’s studiolo. Two newly discovered marble reliefs of Roman Emperors by Gregorio di Lorenzo exemplify the Florentine adoption of antique ideals in the 15th century.
The discovery and display of ancient marbles in the 18th century gave rise to a frenzied artistic movement in which sculptors from across Europe flocked to Rome to restore, copy and reimagine classical statuary. An early adopter of the neoclassical style in French sculpture was Jean-Baptiste Giraud, whose sojourn in Italy resulted in the acquisition of a matchless collection of plaster casts after the antique, which he brought back to Paris. This sale presents two of the sculptor’s most celebrated works; the original plaster model of his Wounded Achilles, and a rare bronze cast of his lost marble Mercury.