• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7631

    Important European Furniture & Sculpture

    4 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 52

    A RECTANGULAR CARVED MARBLE RELIEF OF THE THREE GRACES

    FRENCH OR ITALIAN, 17TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A RECTANGULAR CARVED MARBLE RELIEF OF THE THREE GRACES
    FRENCH OR ITALIAN, 17TH CENTURY
    Carved in high relief and depicting the three sisters Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia embracing each other; minor chips and repairs
    12¼ x 9¼ in. (31 x 23.5 cm.)


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    The alluring image of the Three Graces, is one that has captured the hearts of artists and onlookers since the time of its creation. Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia were the daughters of Zeus and the sea nymph Euronyme, as well as the handmaidens of Venus and companions of Apollo. Respectively, they represented elegance, mirth and youth, and beauty. They were often seen in mythology and art presiding over banquets, dances, and pleasurable social events, and brought joy and goodwill to both gods and mortals.

    The origins of the sculpted group lies in the 4th century BC when the virtuoso sculptor Praxiteles is believed to have modified one of his iconic marble Venuses and replicated her two further times. The theme continued through the Hellenistic period, and was perhaps best popularised in Third-style Pompeiian frescoes, the most famous of which - from the house of T. Dentatus Panthera - is in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Cassani, loc. cit.).

    As in all the antique representations, the three sisters are depicted as two (Aglaia and Euphrosyne) facing frontally while the central figure (Thalia) faces away. This would have served, in part, to be mildly erotic while also being a clever and dynamic compositional idea. In this stance they would have been seen as part of a decorative scheme in a villa or sculpture gallery with the aim of promoting joy, fortitude and love.

    The fact that most reproductions from the 16th century onwards directly copied ancient prototypes means that relatively few distinguishing features can be seen that indicate a country of origin for a piece such as the one offered here. However, a virtually identical 2nd century AD, fragmentary, relief in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=8 85), may very well have been the inspiration for this composition.

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    Literature

    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    S. Cassani, ed., The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Naples, 1996, p. 164.