14 Highlights from Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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The upcoming auction of Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art in London on 5 December features a diverse selection of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical works, including an exceptional offering of early jewellery, an important group of baroque ivories and fine bronzes. Click ahead for highlights from the sale.

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art
5 December | London

14 Highlights from Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

  • An Early Anglo-Saxon Gilt and Silvered Bronze Cruciform Brooch, circa 5th or 6th Century.
    Estimate: £18,000-25,000.
    The function of brooches such as this was to fasten together thick garments, as well as to adorn ensembles of impressive, ostentatious garments. They were worn in Scandinavia, Northern Germany and the Netherlands in the 5th century, but endured in England until the second half of the 6th century.

  • A Composite Gilt Copper Cross with Mosan-Rhenish Enamels, probably Cologne, circa 1180-1200 and later.
    Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    Given the high quality of the enamels, and the fact that enamels from this period were not made for mass production, these are likely to have been part of an object of importance, such as a reliquary shrine. The plaque at the top of the cross depicting a lion opposite a hooded chimaera is a particularly rare survival.

  • A Southern Netherlandish Gilt and Polychromed Walnut God the Father, late 14th century.
    Estimate: £40,000–60,000.
    Recorded in Bruges in the early 20th century, this distinguished figure of God the Father enthroned would have formed part of a representation of the Trinity as the ‘Throne of Mercy.’ The iconography would have included the seated Father presenting a cross with the crucified Christ surmounted by the Dove of the Holy Ghost.

  • A Southern Netherlandish Walnut group of the Holy Family, probably Brussels, late 15th century.
    Estimate £50,000–70,000.
    With its apparent influences from both the Brussels school of carving and the paintings of the Southern Netherlands, this group presents an opportunity to acquire a piece of exceptional quality. The characterful and intricately carved faces, showing an astonishing attention to detail, are on par with some of the most advanced carved altarpieces of the Brabant region.

  • A Pair of Southern German Stained Glass Donor Panels, circa 1470-1480.
    Estimate £8,000–12,000.
    The present panels show the donors of these windows in prayer, one a clergyman, the other a knight. Their comparable coats of arms suggest that they must have been members of the same family. The panels once formed part of the collection of Munich painter Eduard von Grützner, where they were paired with a third panel from the same workshop.

  • A Southern German Limewood Mary Magdalene, circle of Hans Multscher, Swabia, third quarter 15th century.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    Many of the present figure’s characteristic features seem to have their origin in secured works by Multscher. The broad face, with a slightly retroussé nose, almond shaped eyes and pointed lips are found across the sculptor’s oeuvre, whilst the drapery style, with generous, gently cascading folds, is consistent with the sculptor’s later works.

  • An Italian Glazed terracotta Group of the Infant Saint John the Baptist among Animals, workshop of Giovanni della Robbia, circa 1520.
    Estimate £18,000–25,000.
    This enchanting composition compares closely to the Infant Saint John the Baptist with animals by Giovanni della Robbia. The saint is made identifiable by the inclusion of a lamb, having recognised Christ as the ‘Lamb of God.’

  • An Italian Carnelian Intaglio of Nike Sacrificing a Bull, set in an Enamelled Gold Ring, 16th century.
    Estimate £6,000–8,000.
    The wealth of provenance of the present gem includes its ownership of the Earl of Bessborough throughout the 18th century, and its subsequent inclusion in the collection of the Dukes of Marlborough. The present Marlborough gem is very finely engraved and is set in a beautifully enamelled 17th century seal ring mount.

  • A Southern German Boxwood Tödlein (Personification of Death), 17th century.
    Estimate £50,000–70,000.
    Representations of memento mori motifs – reminders of the fleetingness of life – gained currency in the Renaissance, particularly in Reformation-led Germany. They  were valued equally as curiosities, satisfying the Renaissance obsession with human anatomy, and the grotesque. Here the innovative detail of a frog perching atop the hourglass, a popular memento mori symbol, adds further interest to the composition .

  • A Netherlandish Engraved Nautilus Shell with the Rape of Europa by Cornelis Bellekin, second half 17th century, with later silver mounts.
    Estimate £100,000–150,000.
    This magnificent Nautilus is a rare and important survival of Netherlandish shell work, and rarer still given its large size. The intricately carved pierced helm at its curl places the present work among a small number of Nautili that survive with this feature intact, and they are found only in Nautili of the highest quality. The elegant form, artistic windings, and silver sheen of the Nautilus made it Bellekin’s preferred shell to work with, and is here used as a surface for cameo carving, relief carving, and engraving.

  • An Italian Bronze Bust of Anaximander, Rome, 17th century, After the Antique.
    Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    Representations of the pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander in bronze appear to be relatively few in number, but casts have been recorded in some of the most distinguished collections of the 17th century. This remarkable bust is characterised by a superb surface treatment in which the contours of the flesh have been carefully delineated by wire brushwork.

  • A British Marble Bust of Caracalla by Francis Harwood, Florence, 1762, After the Antique.
    Estimate £80,000–120,000.
    This bust of Caracalla follows the Antique, which was acclaimed for its accuracy and outstanding execution, as well as its capturing the psychological intensity of a ruthless tyrant responsible for the death of his brother. The bust comes from the collection of the esteemed art historian Hugh Honour, who attributed the Antique model’s popularity to Caracalla’s election for becoming Emperor having taken place in York, thus endowing a strongly British identity.

  • An Italian Marble Silenus and the Infant Bacchus by Carlo Albacini, 18th century, After the Antique.
    Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    This finely executed marble is a reduced version of the famous life-size Antique group, which was discovered in Rome circa 1569. The present marble is an impressive example of Albacini’s skill in copying and restoring Antique marbles, and is an exceedingly rare autograph work by a sculptor of unprecedented popularity in the Age of Neoclassicism.

  • An Italian Marble Group of Cupid and Psyche, early 19th century, After the Antique.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    This intimate marble group of a couple embracing is after the Roman model, discovered in 1749. Except for a brief sojourn in France, where it was received in Paris with a triumphant procession after being ceded by Napoleon, the original model has stayed in the Capitoline Museum since 1750, following its donation by Pope Benedict XIV.

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