• The Art of France auction at Christies

    Sale 2624

    The Art of France

    25 January 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 114

    French school, 18th century

    An allegory of arts and sciences

    Price Realised  


    French school, 18th century
    An allegory of arts and sciences
    oil on canvas laid down on board
    23½ x 29 1/8 in. (59.5 x 74 cm.)

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    The allegorical elements assembled here derive from contemporary emblem books from France and Italy. Though painted by an accomplished and inventive artist, a specific attribution has yet to be suggested. In the center, an unusual monument decorated with seashells and pearls and adorned with a fictive sculptural relief of a battle scene stands against an elegant classical building in the background. The foreground object has yet to be identified, and while it could be a cenotaph, it may also be a fantastical structure intended to suggest geometric ideals.

    At right the scientific theme is enhanced by the presence of the compasses in what appears to be an allegory of geography, with a snake winding its way around a globe. Cesare Ripa's influential emblem book Iconologia depicts a figure with towers on her head, similar to the child included here. This motif, now known as Italian Turrita, is a common personification of Italy, and in combination with the compass and the globe depicted here may refer to man's achievement in design and construction around the world. Above this group is a marble table with an elegant clock and a statue of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon, whose form is like the famous Diana of Versailles sculpture, installed at Versailles by Louis XIV and now in the Louvre. To balance the scientific themes of the right side of the picture, the artist has included symbols of arts and literature with a pair of books and a palette with brushes.

    Pre-Lot Text