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A SET OF EIGHT ITALIAN TERRACOTTA PORTRAIT RELIEFS
A SET OF EIGHT ITALIAN TERRACOTTA PORTRAIT RELIEFS
A SET OF EIGHT ITALIAN TERRACOTTA PORTRAIT RELIEFS
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A SET OF EIGHT ITALIAN TERRACOTTA PORTRAIT RELIEFS
9 More
Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s F… Read more
A SET OF EIGHT ITALIAN TERRACOTTA PORTRAIT RELIEFS

ITALIAN, POSSIBLY LOMBARDY, THE HEADS AND INNER LEAF FRAMES, LATE 16TH CENTURY AND LATER, THE PAINTED OUTER FRAMES AND OUTERMOST LAUREL FRAMES, 20TH CENTURY

Details
A SET OF EIGHT ITALIAN TERRACOTTA PORTRAIT RELIEFS
ITALIAN, POSSIBLY LOMBARDY, THE HEADS AND INNER LEAF FRAMES, LATE 16TH CENTURY AND LATER, THE PAINTED OUTER FRAMES AND OUTERMOST LAUREL FRAMES, 20TH CENTURY
Each within later painted and terracotta circular frames
12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm.) diameter, the bust relief; 27 ½ in. (69.9 cm.) diameter, overall (each)
Provenance
Elia Volpi (1858-1938), Palazzo Davanzati, Florence, 1920's, according to Dandois invoice.
William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951); and sold Hammer Galleries, New York, 1941, lots 590-591, according to Dandois invoice.
Acquired from Ariane Dandois, Paris.
Special Notice

Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.

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Emily Fitzgerald
Emily Fitzgerald Associate Specialist, Head of Sale

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Condition Report

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Lot Essay

This impressive group would have reminded both the Renaissance owner – and their visitors – of their sophistication and their close cultural links to Antiquity. While they recall the marble and bronze busts of Antiquity, indeed there are traces of dark green paint which indicate they might have once been painted to imitate bronze, they are also closely related to bust-length roundels produced by the della Robbia factory in the 16th century for some of their most sophisticated patrons.
And, while the Volpi and Hearst provenances have not been confirmed, aesthetically these busts fit perfectly into both Volpi’s and Hearst’s taste for impressive and large-scale Italian Renaissance sculpture. At the beginning of the 20th century Volpi was a genius for finding treasures from impoverished Old World Renaissance princes and selling them to the New World princes, like Morgan, Frick and Hearst, who often saw themselves, both commercially and culturally, as personifications of a Renaissance revival. It is easy – and tempting – to imagine these imposing figures in one of Hearst’s fantastical interiors.
These terracottas, the majority being nearly five hundred years old, are also a remarkable survival from the Renaissance. They are large, made from fired clay and were always intended to be integral with their architectural surroundings. This installation, embedded into walls, makes them even more vulnerable than other works of art as it is often not a gentle process removing them. Therefore, several of the busts may be later replacements if the original busts were damaged or they could have been conceived later to augment the existing set. As noted in the Condition Report, there are some variations to the results of Oxford’s thermoluminescent tests. So it is possible that two of the busts and their inner laurel leaf frames are later than the late 16th century, and may date to the late 17th and early 18th century or later. But as Oxford’s tests can only narrow down the firing date, in these two cases, to having been fired between 200-350 years and 200-300 years, it is impossible to confirm. But taking into consideration the stylistic evidence linking these two busts to the Baroque, as well as the fact that there was little commercial reason to reproduce Italian Renaissance terracotta sculpture in the early 19th century (it was deeply unfashionable at this time), it is safe to assume these two latest examples almost certainly date from the late 17th and early 18th century rather than the early 19th century – which would be the date they would have been fired if they were fired only 200 years ago. It is worth noting that the bust with the latest possible test (no. 8 in the Condition Report and sample N121c94) is clearly different from the others in both the terracotta and the modeling and finishing. So a slightly later firing date was always to be expected.
Please note the present lot is accompanied by a thermoluminescence test for each of the eight terracotta reliefs from Oxford Authentication dated April 2020. Please see the condition report for additional information.

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