• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7745

    Important European Furniture, Sculpture & Clocks

    9 July 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 115

    A CARVED MARBLE GROUP OF GANYMEDE AND THE EAGLE

    BY ANTONIO MONTAUTI (CIRCA 1685-AFTER 1740), CIRCA 1721-22

    Price Realised  

    A CARVED MARBLE GROUP OF GANYMEDE AND THE EAGLE
    BY ANTONIO MONTAUTI (CIRCA 1685-AFTER 1740), CIRCA 1721-22
    Ganymede depicted nude and standing with lightning bolts in his left hand and with his right arm around the eagle; on an integrally carved bank of clouds; surface dirt, minor losses
    56 in. (142.2 cm.) high


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    It appears that the present marble of Ganymede and the Eagle was originally commissioned through the offices of the architect Alessandro Galilei for John Molesworth, who was British envoy extraordinary in Tuscany, and himself a collector and advisor to patrons such as Thomas Parker, Earl of Macclesfield (Ingamells, loc. cit.). In a letter to Molesworth on 1 May 1721, Galilei writes 'The piece of sculpture undertaken by Montauti has been beautifully executed, especially the group of Ganymede'. By September 1723, the marbles had arrived in Livorno for shipment to England, but it seems there was a problem with payment, and by February 1725, Molesworth had died. Although it is unclear, to date, how the marble commissioned by Molesworth entered the collection at Shirburn Castle, it is almost certain that the marble was purchased by Macclesfield some time between 1723 and 1725 because he was impeached on charges of corruption in 1725 and all collecting ground to a halt. The sculpture Macclesfield had assembled over a period of only a couple of years, remained untouched at Shirburn Castle until the sale of the bronzes and plasters in 2005.

    The present composition in marble is known also in reduced examples in bronze and biscuit porcelain (Pratesi, op. cit., I, p. 94) and has had a traditional attribution to Giuseppe Piamontini, Montauti's master. However, the documents clearly show that the marble offered here is a very early work in the medium by Montauti. The attribution of the present marble to his hand therefore requires a re-attribution of the two known bronze examples (Galleria Nazionale, Rome and Institute of Arts, Minneapolis) and the porcelain example (Museo di Doccia, Sesto Fiorentino) to Montauti as well.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Commissioned by the Hon. John Molesworth (1679-1726), through the offices of the architect Alessandro Galilei circa 1721.
    Purchased by Thomas, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, circa 1723-25.
    Thence by descent at Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
    (LOTS 114-115)


    Literature

    J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 666.

    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    K. Lankheit, Florentinische Barockplastik - Die Kunst am Hofe der letzten Medici 1670-1743, Munich, 1962, p. 376, fig. 140.
    G. Pratesi, Repertorio della Scultura Fiorentina del Seicento e Settecento, Turin, 1993, I, pp. 52, 55-56, 94, II, figs. 342-357, III, figs. 438-439.
    T. P. Connor, 'The Fruits of the Grand Tour - Edward Wright and Lord Parker in Italy, 1720-22', in Apollo, July 1998, pp. 23-30.