An Italian white marble figure of Galatea
An Italian white marble figure of Galatea


An Italian white marble figure of Galatea
By Francesco Fabi-Altini, Circa 1885
Nude, her pearl headress with central sea shell, holding billowing drapery, seated on a rocky base, on a canted rectangular plinth, inscribed to the front GALATEA and signed to the right FSCO FABJ ALTINI, SCULPI
65 in. (165 cm.) high
The Art Journal, London, 1881, p.62
A. Panzetta, Dizionario degli Scultori italiani dell'Ottocento, Torino, 1994, p.119.
Sale room notice
Please note that this marble figure is inscribed and dated "Roma 1880" to the back. This suggests that the present marble probably is the version exhibited and acclaimed at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880 and not a later version, as stated in the catalogue.

Lot Essay

Francesco Fabi-Altini (1830-1906) studied at the Roman Accademia di Belle Arti and then at the Accademia di San Luca under Tadolini. He perfected his apprenticeship under Tenerani. Altini was also an Associate of the Academy of the Academy of Ferrara and an Academician of the Academies of Perugia and Bologna. Altini's first celebrated work was the group of Cupid and Mercury of 1850 which was acquired by the Empress of Austria. By the age of twenty-six, he was entrusted with the Monument to Cardinal Bianchi for the Church of San Gregorio al Celio. Altini's figure of Beatrice was awarded the first medal, it was then purchased for a gallery in Hungary. On account of this precocious talent and success, Altini was handed the commission for the Mausoleum to Golmello in Ferrara.

Altini's most famous monuments are the colossal figures of Meditation and Prayer, with which he won the Roman competition and now stand at the entrance gates of the Campo Santo, at Verona. Altini's studio was in Rome, but he often sent work abroad, on commission or to be exhibited.
One of his figures of Galatea was exhibited with great acclaim at the Grosvenor Gallery, London, in May 1880. The English public was delighted with this work by a top ranking Roman sculptor and Galatea was reproduced in an engraving the following year in The Art Journal, together with an enthusiastic report on Altini. Following the success of his Galatea, Altini exhibited exhibited his marble David at the Royal Academy in 1881, no. 1441.
The present figure of Galatea was most probably executed circa 1885, following the success of Altini's English exhibits, probably on commission. Galatea was a sea-nymph of Sicilain origin who loved the youth Acis, but was in turn loved by the one-eyed giant Polyphemus, who jealously killed Acis. Galatea, as in the present example, is traditionally shown with an arch of drapery billowing behind her like a sail. In this form, she also represents the Roman spirit of air: Aura. In the present modelled figure, Altini has captured Galatea in all her feminine splendour and realism characteristic of Altini's renowned skill and imagination.

Another Galatea by Fabi-Altini was offered in these Rooms, 27 September 1990, lot 148, and subsequently sold.

More from The 19th Century Interior

View All
View All