• 500 Years Decorative Arts Euro auction at Christies

    Sale 8009

    500 Years Decorative Arts Europe The European Connoisseur & Les Maitres Ebenistes-The Property of an Important Private European Collector

    8 December 2011, London, King Street

  • Lot 137

    A BRONZE BUST OF A YOUNG BOY

    AFTER A MODEL BY GUGLIELMO DELLA PORTA, PROBABLY CAST IN ROME OR FLORENCE, SECOND HALF 16TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A BRONZE BUST OF A YOUNG BOY
    AFTER A MODEL BY GUGLIELMO DELLA PORTA, PROBABLY CAST IN ROME OR FLORENCE, SECOND HALF 16TH CENTURY
    On a later tripartite ebonized wood base; dark brown patina with medium bright brown high points
    7 1/8 in. (18 cm.) high; 10½ in. (26.7 cm.) high, overall


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    The highly sensitive and enigmatic bronze bust offered here is based on the left bronze statue of a cherub on the tomb of Pope Paul III in St Peter's, Rome, cast by Guglielmo Della Porta in 1549 (Avery, op. cit., fig. 230). However it is made more interesting by the fact that it bears a number of stylistic similarities with the works of the paterfamilias of Italian mannerist sculpture: Giambologna. In 1550 the young Giambologna visited Rome and spent the following two years closely studying the works of ancient and contemporary sculptors. There can be no doubt that the young Fleming studied della Porta's tomb for the Pope Paul III, and in particular the cherub, if one considers its closeness in style and composition with Giambologna's Fishing Boy in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence (ibid., fig 229), and the dolphin-carrying boys on the Neptune Fountain in Bologna (ibid., fig. 231), for example. The same can equally be said for the treatment of the hair and facial type on the head of the Zephyr from the Medici Mercury also in the Bargello (ibid., fig. 238), where one can see the author of this bronze modelling the hair in varying depths of relief and by having it radiating out from a central point at the back of the head and by piling the locks one upon the other above the forehead and on the sides. The comparisons are still further if one also considers the high and wide forehead, the almond-shaped eyes with heavily defined upper eye-lid, the small pointed nose, the narrow pert lips, the small pinched chin and shallow neck.

    By virtue of its heavy cast and the rich warm brown patina it is highly likely that the present head dates from the second half of the 16th century, thus placing it firmly in the time that Giambologna was most active. However the very angular nature of the hair, which is handled as if being carved in wood, is unlike what one expects to see of the hairstyle on figures of Giambologna's mature works, which tend to be bold, organic and waxy. It is thus more likely that the present head was modelled and cast by a 16th century disciple of della Porta's familiar with Giambologna's style. However, one cannot entirely dismiss the possibility that the present head could also have been modelled by the young Giambologna in his years in Rome when he was evolving his skills from being a wood and alabaster carver and moving onto the more challenging media of bronze and marble.

    Literature

    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    C. Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, Oxford, 1987.