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A BRONZE FIGURE OF MARSYAS
A BRONZE FIGURE OF MARSYAS

WORKSHOP OF FRANCOIS GIRARDON (1628-1715), FRENCH, EARLY 18TH CENTURY

Details
A BRONZE FIGURE OF MARSYAS
WORKSHOP OF FRANCOIS GIRARDON (1628-1715), FRENCH, EARLY 18TH CENTURY
On an integrally cast naturalistic plinth and later square red marble base
22 ½ in. (57 cm.) high
Provenance
With Michael Hall, New York.
John R. Gaines; Important European Sculpture from the Collection of John R. Gaines; Christie's, New York, 2 June 1993, lot 206.
Literature
M. Schwartz, ed., European Sculpture from the Abbott Guggenheim Collection, New York, 2008, pp. 176-177, no. 93.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:

F. Souchal, 'La collection du sculpteur Girardon d'après son inventaire après décès', La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, LXXXII, July-Aug., 1973, p. 51-52, no. 52, figs. 81-82.
F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique, New Haven, 1981, pp. 262-263
F. Souchal, French Sculptors of the 17th and 18th Centuries: The Reign of Louis XIV, Oxford, 1981, Vol. II, p. 80, no. 119.
New York, William Moretti & Irving Galleries, Scultura II, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, 2009, pp. 68-71.
Exhibited
Bayerisches National Museum, Munich, Apoll Schindet Marsyas Über das Schreckliche in der Kunst, 1995, p. 151, no. 5.

Condition Report

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Lot Essay

The present bronze figure of Marsyas is a reduction of the famous antique marble depicting Marsyas about to be flayed alive for losing his musical contest against Apollo. Several antique versions are known, but the most famous is probably the one purchased by Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1584 from the della Valle collection, Rome, now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. According to Haskell and Penny (loc. cit.) it was one of the most highly valued antiquities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although it was reproduced in major seventeenth century anthologies of prints and the French Academy had a cast of the work by 1684, sculptural copies were not common. The subject matter – the punishment of the innocent mortal to soothe the anger of a God – was too gruesome and threatening for either a domestic or a garden setting.

François Girardon (1628-1715) realized a model in terracotta probably after having seen the Medici marble during his stay in Rome circa 1647-1650. His terracotta figure (approximately 84 cm. high) was reproduced in a series of engravings of the sculptor’s own collection that he commissioned towards the end of his life entitled La Galerie de Girardon sculpteur ordinaire du Roy. These engravings, executed by Nicolas Chevallier (1661-1720) after drawings by René Charpentier (1680-1723) and Gilles-Marie Oppenord (1672-1742), depicted the antique and modern sculptures of Girardon’s collection in a fictional setting. This document is an inestimable source of the sculptor’s oeuvre as all the sculptures are described in the lower part of the thirteen engravings. The terracotta figure of Marsyas is shown on Plate III ‘Veûe d’un des Côtez de la Gallerie du Sr Girardon Sculpteur ordinaire du Roy’, in the right-hand niche and is described under number 31 as follows: ‘Marcias Modèle de terre cuite copié d’après l’Antique par F. Girardon’ (see detail of engraving). Another small bronze statuette from a private collection is recorded by Souchal (Souchel, 1973, p. 52, fig. 82). The present bronze differs from both that example and the terracotta in its lack of pipes, the naturalistic treatment of the tree stump and ground, and more importantly, in the removable lion skin drapery which hangs from the back of the tree. This provocative element is contemporary with the facture of the figure and has been ingeniously fitted to the composition. The addition of the lion skin has softened the image, allowing the torso to appear less exposed and thus altering the iconographic impact.

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