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    Sale 2135

    Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture

    28 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 11

    A BRONZE MORTAR

    ITALIAN, 15TH OR 16TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A BRONZE MORTAR
    ITALIAN, 15TH OR 16TH CENTURY
    With a single handle and ring and stylized tree decoration
    5 in. (12½ cm.) high, 6½ in. (16½ cm.) diameter
    TRUESDELL COLLECTION


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    Middeldorf notes that mortars of this model 'early type, second group', have datable examples from the middle of the fifteenth century to 1531. He cites his number 10 as similar to the Truesdell bronze, but somewhat smaller, and his number 7 which has a similar recessed base with trefoils on the tops of the lancets (U. Middeldorf, Fifty Mortars: 15th-18th Century, Florence, 1981).

    Provenance

    with Bernheimer, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 27 December 1965.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF PROFESSOR AND MRS. CLIFFORD AMBROSE TRUESDELL

    Coming upon the Truesdell collection of Baroque bronzes, Renaissance works of art, and Old Master paintings is a delightful surprise. The severely restrained façade of Il Palazzetto, the Truesdell house in Baltimore, gives little away. But the artwork within immediately recalls the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the period when American buyers such as J.P. Morgan, Henry Clay Frick and Samuel Kress were seeking out great works of European art. Connoisseurship was an essential skill for building such a collection, something acquired only by spending hours examining the objects -- an almost non-existent luxury in this day and age -- and a skill that was clearly put to use in forming this extraordinary group. The collector, Professor Clifford Ambrose Truesdell, was himself extraordinary -- an enfant terrible in the field of mathematics, an expert on Baroque music, and an accomplished humanities scholar who spoke six languages and read classical Greek and Latin. His love of Italy, reflected in his art collection, was no doubt entwined with the fact that he won all of the top Italian awards in his field, and his personal papers are now in the Library of the University of Pisa.

    The Truesdell collection of Baroque bronzes gives us the thrilling 'discovery' of another version of Saturn Devouring his Children. And while Saturn is the undisputed masterpiece of the collection, Professor Truesdell's other works of art include Venetian and Limoges enamels -- in particular a magnificent roundel depicting the Laocöon from J.P. Morgan's collection -- as well as alabaster and terracotta reliefs, and Franco-Flemish and Italian sixteenth- and seventeenth- century bronzes.

    Among the Italian paintings, the reflective Madonna and Child, with the Infant Saint John attributed to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio epitomizes the classicism of the Florentine Renaissance. The one English picture in the Truesdell collection -- the sumptuous Baroque portrait of Lady Mary Fane by Sir Peter Lely -- found its way into the collection because Professor Truesdell owned a magnificent George II state bed made for Francis Fane, a relative of Lady Mary. This bed, attributed to Giles Grendey, along with a set of four giltwood chairs by William and John Linnell, and a fine group of Italian, Dutch and Flemish furniture, will highlight the New York furniture sales in April.

    Together the Truesdell pictures and works of art form a rare group -- long after many similar collections have been scattered -- and, having remained off the market for more than 40 years, they present a tremendously exciting opportunity.