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A BRONZE FIGURE OF VENUS DRYING HERSELF
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION (LOTS 61-63 AND 78)
A BRONZE FIGURE OF VENUS DRYING HERSELF

AFTER GIAMBOLOGNA (1529-1608), ITALIAN, LATE 18TH CENTURY

Details
A BRONZE FIGURE OF VENUS DRYING HERSELF
AFTER GIAMBOLOGNA (1529-1608), ITALIAN, LATE 18TH CENTURY
On a later marble base
12 1/8 in. (31 cm.) high; 14 7/8 in. (37.7 cm.) high, overall
Literature
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
C. Avery, A. Radcliffe and M. Leithe-Jasper eds., Giambologna. Sculptor to the Medici, London, 1978, no. 1, p. 62
A. Radcliffe, Giambologna’s Cesarini Venus, exh. cat., Washington, 1993.

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Lot Essay

Giambologna's Venus

The present bronze of Venus is an example of one of Giambologna's most sought-after compositions. Giambologna’s rendering of the female nude in a variety of poses is among the most exquisite in all of European art. Determined to match the status and glory of Michelangelo, he reinterpreted classical statues in light of Michelangelo’s studies in contrapposto and figura serpentinata. The present model of Venus Drying Herself is emblematic of his desire to create models that could be admired in three dimensions, with no one preponderant viewpoint, the sensuous beauty of the curving nude back of Venus equal to the quixotic beauty of the slowly unveiling full-frontal female form.

Conceived directly after Giambologna’s Rape of a Sabine, it can be seen as the logical final development in Giambologna’s exhaustive exploration of the female nude (Radcliffe, 1993, loc. cit., p. 5).

Such is the grace of the idealised figure that the action of drying after a humble wash is elevated far beyond a simple genre scene. Giambologna was largely unconcerned with specific subject matter throughout his career, which left him free to concentrate on the both the technical aspect and form of his figures (Avery, 1987, loc. cit.).

Villa Ludovisi

The present model is related to a marble figure modeled by Giambologna in Florence in the period 1580-1583. A letter dated 28 July 1580 records that Grand Duke Francesco I de' Medici promised Giangiorgio II Cesarini, Marquis of Civitanova, that he would allow Giambologna, the most brilliant artist of his court, to undertake the carving of a marble statue for the Villa Ludovis, Cesarini's palace in Rome, as soon as he had completed all his existing commissions. On 9 April 1583 the Duke of Urbino’s ambassador Simona Fortuna wrote to the duke, Francesco Maria II della Rovere, stating that the sculptor then had the figure of Venus in hand (‘fra mano’), suggesting that the sculpture was then in the process of being carved. Presumably completed in 1583, it was installed in the Villa Ludovisi, where it still stands today, the villa now housing the American Embassy.

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