Research by Maichol Clemente has led to greater understanding of the biography and oeuvre
of the Tyrolean-born Venetian artist Tommaso Rues, who, in his lifetime, was regarded as one of the leading sculptors in the serenissima
at the end of the 17th century. Rues came to prominence with his elegant groups of the Evangelists, Old Testament heroines, and angels for Baldassare Longhena's Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute which dominates the S. Marco opening of the Grand Canal. Rues' work received considerable acclaim and he is mentioned in a letter from Abbot Giovanni Parenti to Francesco II d'Este, Duke of Modena, in 1679 alongside Josse De Corte, 'Michele Ungaro' and Orazio Marinali. Parenti describes Rues' work as 'very delicate' and notes that he worked for 'many princes in Germany, in particular the Duke of Saxony and the prince of Ratzwill' (as quoted in Clemente, 2016, op. cit.
, pp. 17-18). In the 1670s Rues executed figures for Palladio's Redentore in Giudecca and - considered his seminal works - statues of St. Peter
, St. John the Evangelist
, St. Paul
and St. Juliana
for the San Pantalon church in the sestriere of Dorsoduro.
The present bust of Pluto
, the god of the underworld, relates to a number of Rues' male figures, with their heavy furrowed brows and swirling, mid-length beards. Compare, for example, with the Prophets from the altar of the Madonna del Rosario di San Domenico in Brescia, now in the Brompton Oratory in South Kensington. A particularly strong comparison is found in the face of Hercules from Rues' rediscovered Hercules and Antaeus
group, which Clemente has identified in a deed dated 9 August 1704 which divides Rues' estate amongst his children (for a full discussion ref. Clemente, 2016, op. cit.
). Ultimately, the present bust of Pluto finds its closest comparisons with the St. Peter
and St. Paul
from the church of San Pantalon, created by the artist when he was at his zenith. The head of St. Paul
is, in fact, so close that one could be mistaken for thinking that the two derive from the same model: in the brow, shape of the eyes and arrangement of the hair and beard. The identification of the subject is confirmed by the fact that Pluto is traditionally represented as a king: bearded with a crown of many points.
P. Rossi, 'Per un profilo di Tommaso Rues,' in G. Pavanello (ed.), La scultura veneta del seicento e del settecento: Nuovi Studi, Venice, 2002; M. Clemente, 'Tommaso Rues: contributo al catalogo,' Zbornik za umetnostno zgodovino (Nova vrsta), 49, 2013; M. Clemente, Tommaso Rues 1636-1703: A German Sculptor in Baroque Venice, Florence, 2016
The present bust is accompanied by an expertise by Dr Maichol Clemente which is available upon request. Sotheby's would like to thank Dr Clemente for his kind assistance in cataloguing this lot.