A BRONZE AND WHITE MARBLE BUST OF EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS
A BRONZE AND WHITE MARBLE BUST OF EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS
A BRONZE AND WHITE MARBLE BUST OF EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS
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A BRONZE AND WHITE MARBLE BUST OF EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS
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THE NORTON SIMON EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS BUSTPROPERTY FROM THE MICHAEL HALL COLLECTIONS
A BRONZE AND WHITE MARBLE BUST OF EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS

ATTRIBUTED TO LUDOVICO LOMBARDO (CIRCA 1509-1575), CIRCA 1550

Details
A BRONZE AND WHITE MARBLE BUST OF EMPEROR LUCIUS VERUS
ATTRIBUTED TO LUDOVICO LOMBARDO (CIRCA 1509-1575), CIRCA 1550
The socle inscribed COMMODUS
30 ½ in. (77.5 cm.) high, overall, 25 ½ in. (64.8 cm.) high, the bust
20 ¼ in. (51.4 cm.) wide
Provenance
Sir Joseph Duveen (1869-1939), and then Duveen Brothers, New York, until 1965.
Norton Simon (1907-1993), Los Angeles; and sold Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 7 May, 1971, lot 124.
Literature
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
H. Weihrauch, ed., Bayerisches Nationalmuseum München: Die Bildwerke in Bronze und in anderen Metallen, vol. XIII, 5, Munich, 1956, p. 77S, no. 102.
K. Fittschen, ‘Sul ruolo del ritratto antico nell’arte italiana,’ in Memoria dell’antico nell’arte italiana, S. Setis, ed., vol. II, Turin, 1985, p. 405, n. 72.
I. Favaretto, ‘La fortuna del ritratto antico nelle collezione venete di antichità: originali, copie e invenzione,’ Bolletino d’Arte LXXVIII, no. 79, May-June, 1993, pp. 68-72.
A. Luchs, Tullio Lombardo and Ideal Portrait Sculpture in Renaissance Venice, 1490-1530, Cambridge, 1995, pp. 108-109, fig. 193.
A. Boström, ‘Ludovico Lombardo and the Taste for the all’Antica Bust in Mid-Sixteenth-Century Florence and Rome,’ in Large Bronzes in the Renaissance, P. Motture, ed., CASVA, Symposium Papers XLI, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2003, pp. 155-179.
V. Avery, ‘The Production, Display and Reception of Bronze Heads and Busts in Renaissance Venice and Padua: Surrogate Antiques,’ J. Kohl and R. Müller, eds., Kopf / Bild: Die Büste in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Berlin and Munich, 2007, pp. 75-112.
Exhibited
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1965-1971.
Renaissance Masterpieces of the Michael Hall Collection, catalogue entry by E. Lamouche, Galerie Yates Trebosc van Lelyveld, Paris, 2013.

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Lot Essay

A BOY – AND A BUST – BECOME AN EMPEROR

This magnificent bust has been in the collection of Michael Hall for nearly half a century. It was bought directly from Norton Simon’s collection, however, while it is still the same object, a great deal about it has changed. Described in the Norton Simon auction catalogue as simply a: ‘bronze and marble bust of an emperor’, it can now be identified as the Emperor Lucius Verus and attributed to the sculptor Ludovico Lombardo who was working for some the most celebrated collectors of ancient and contemporary sculpture in Renaissance Florence and Rome. And, amazingly, the sculpture itself has been transformed as, after a cleaning in preparation for the 2013 exhibition, it was discovered that the pupils and the ‘whites’ of the eyes were, in fact, delicately hammered, inlaid silver. These had remained hidden behind centuries of accumulation. So now Lucius Verus can be both properly understood and appreciated in a new light.

While the socle of the present bust is inscribed COMMODUS, this inscription has led to some confusion. Lamouche (op. cit.) mentions that the socle may not be original to the bust because of the incorrect inscription, but the socle appears to be a fine old marble and certainly 17th century in date, if not earlier. So, perhaps rather than a case of mistaken identity, the inscription could well be accurate after all, but just not the complete story. Lucius Verus’ birth name was originally Lucius Ceionius Commodus and, after his adoption by the Emperor Antoninus Pius, it was changed to Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus. It was only after becoming emperor himself, that the name Commodus was dropped. So it could be that this bust was correctly identified all along. And there is even the possibility that Lucius Verus was not yet emperor at the time the original model was made as Lucius Verus looks younger than he might have at the age of thirty one, when he became emperor.

Lucius Verus (130-169) had the distinction, along with his adopted brother Marcus Aurelius, to be, together, the first two co-emperors of the Roman Empire. Lucius Verus was already the adoptive grandson of the Emperor Hadrian when he was adopted by the Emperor Antoninus Pius. And, after Antoninus Pius’ death in 161, both Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Veras, as his adoptive sons, were confirmed by the senate to rule the Roman Empire. After many campaigns abroad, including Syria and Mesopotamia, he eventually returned to Rome to a life of both pleasure and continued duty until his death in 169.

The present bust, as mentioned, depicts Lucius Verus as a young man, either just before he became emperor, or perhaps just after. His placid and un-lined face, in comparison to the furrowed brows of many of Ludovico’s older subjects, suggests that the weight of empire has not yet settled on this youth. As Lamouche (Ibid.) notes, ‘the juvenile face is carefully finished and polished to show the softness of the skin’. The beard and hair, with deep and wildly curling asymmetry, are visually gorgeous and act as striking counterpoints. The silver-inlaid eyes are a surprise to the viewer and animate the face beyond what one expects from both antique and contemporary Renaissance busts.


LUDOVICO LOMBARDO: A BRIDGE BETWEEN ANTIQUITY AND THE RENAISSANCE

Ludovico Lombardo, the son of the Venetian sculptor Antonio Lombardo, was from a family of sculptors who worked both in bronze and marble (Boström, op. cit., p. 162). Born in Ferrara, Ludovico is first recorded in 1546 as a caster in bronze and continued to work, often with his brothers, dividing his time between Rome and Recanti until his death (Ibid.). In addition to many Papal commissions, Ludovico also worked for some of the most sophisticated collectors of the mid-16th century. The fascination with, and re-appraisal of, antique sculpture was widespread in Italy at this moment. And, as Boström writes, Italian nobleman assembling sculpture collections and decorating their palazzi, considered the classicizing copies of antique originals to be acceptable substitutes. Boström identifies three bronze busts of Hadrian, Brutus and Scipio commissioned by Lorenzo Ridolfi, a Florentine, from a ‘maestro Ludovico’ (Ibid., pp. 159-160). As Boström further elaborates, not only was Ludovico supplying original works of art, but he was also restoring antique sculpture and acting as a sculpture dealer or agent.

Boström has greatly expanded not just our understanding of, but indeed Ludovico’s actual oeuvre and identifies and discusses many of the most important of Ludovico’s bronze busts. Among them are three Busts of Hadrian (National Gallery of Art, Washington, Museo Archeologico, Venice and Bayerisches Museum, Munich), three Busts of Brutus (Liechtenstein Collections, Vaduz, the Louvre and one in a private [formerly Pourtalès], collection) and additional heads without torsos now in the Bargello and busts in the Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris, and the National Museum, Stockholm. (Ibid., pp. 155-179).

Most of Ludovico’s busts are heads and torsos cast entirely in bronze. However, a bust of Hadrian, also attributed to Ludovico and now in the Prado Museum, is composed of a bronze head on a rather simply-carved marble torso (Prado E000354). It is a combination of bronze and marble similar to the present Lucius Verus. And in the Museo Nazionale Romano there is an antique basalt head of Scipio set into a gilded bronze torso attributed to Ludovico, known as the Rospigliosi Scipio (Ibid., pp. 167-168).

Of all the bronze busts attributed to Ludovico one is of particular relevance to the present Lucius Verus, a bronze bust in the collections of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. The Munich Lucius Verus appears to be identical to the present Lucius Verus, except that it is set onto bronze shoulders with a paludamentum and the present version has the additions of the silver-inlaid eyes and the full marble torso.

Identified as both Young Hadrian and Lucius Verus, the Munich bust has been traditionally attributed to Tullio Lombardo (Weihrauch, op. cit.). However, more recent scholarship by Fittschen (op. cit.), Avaretto (op. cit.) and Luchs (op. cit.) – all discussed and summarized by Avery (op. cit., pp. 87-89) – indicate an attribution to Ludovico. Avery also mentions that there are other versions of this head, including one, cited by Lamouche, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2004.83.4). And, finally, as noted by Avery, in 1993 Favaretto published a fragmentary gesso head now in the Museo Liviano, Padua, that appears to have been cast from the original clay model used to make this model of Lucius Verus – perhaps the very beginning of this story in the 16th century (Ibid. and Favaretto, op. cit.).

As with any Roman emperor, many antique busts exist that might have served as prototypes for later Renaissance versions. And Ludovico would have been extremely familiar with both antique sculpture and sculpture being collected by contemporary connoisseurs. For the present bust of Lucius Versus, however, there are several close possibilities that depict him as a young man, rather than the many later versions that illustrate a seasoned statesman and warrior toughened by foreign campaigns. One bust, in particular, the Young Lucius Verus formerly in the Campagna Collection and now in the Louvre is extremely close (no. MA1136; K. de Kersauson, Musée du Louvre, Département des Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines: catalogue des portraits romains, vol. II, Paris, 1996, no. 116). Additional portrait busts of the Young Lucius Verus can also be found in the collections of the Sala dei Busti, the Vatican (no. 705), the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (no. I 115) and in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (no. 6827) (K. Fittschen, Prinzenbildnisse Antoninischer Zeit, Mainz, 1999, plates 67-71).


SIR JOSEPH DUVEEN, NORTON SIMON AND MICHAEL HALL

The marriage of the venerable Duveen firm and the California corporate titan is an original and unusual story (Lock, Stock and Barrel: Norton Simon’s Purchase of Duveen Brothers Gallery, 24, October, 2014-27 April, 2015, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena). Founded in the 1860s, by the early 20th century, Sir Joseph Duveen, the son and nephew of the founders, was supplying American museum and collectors with many of the best pictures and works of art now in North America. He dominated the art market, but not without controversy, until his death in 1939. Norton Simon was several generations later than Morgan, Frick and Hearst but, as a collector, he was cut from the same cloth as Duveen’s earlier customers. And, like the early 20th century Robber Barons, he put together an astonishing collection of staggering quality in a remarkably short time. Most of this is now exhibited in his Pasadena museum. In 1965, Norton Simon, who had been negotiating with Duveen Brothers over a group of pictures, decided instead to purchase the entire remaining inventory of about 800 objects, the gallery on East 78th Street in New York and Duveen’s immense library and archives.

In the Duveen archives dated Feb. 11, 1952, under ‘BRONZES – 16th Century / ITALIAN’ there is noted under inventory number 28136 a ‘Bronze Bust of a Roman Emperor “Caesar” / On marble plinth. H. with base 20 “’. While the measurements are not exact, it is possible that this reference is to Lucius Verus. But even if it is not, we know that it was part of Duveen’s stock when it was purchased by Norton Simon. In the 1970s, a series of auctions were held by Norton Simon to offset the $4,000,000 price he paid for the Duveen firm. Lucius Verus was part of this group.

Lucius Verus has been in the collection of Michael Hall since the Norton Simon sale which was held forty seven years ago. Despite the brief description in the 1971 auction catalogue Lucius Verus is, clearly, much more significant than this mention indicated. Michael Hall might not have known either the identity or the attribution of Lucius Verus when he purchased it so long ago, however, what was obvious to Mr. Hall was that it is a sculpture of quality, great beauty and that it was an unsolved mystery. He should know. As Michael Hall has been making similar discoveries with countless other pieces of sculpture – with great success, generosity of spirit and humor – his entire life.

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