A BRONZE RECLINING FIGURE OF THE HERMAPHRODITE
A BRONZE RECLINING FIGURE OF THE HERMAPHRODITE
A BRONZE RECLINING FIGURE OF THE HERMAPHRODITE
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A BRONZE RECLINING FIGURE OF THE HERMAPHRODITE
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Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a fil… Read more
A BRONZE RECLINING FIGURE OF THE HERMAPHRODITE

CAST FROM THE ANTIQUE MARBLE RESTORED BY IPPOLITO BUZZI IN 1621-23, ITALY, PROBABLY MID-17TH CENTURY

Details
A BRONZE RECLINING FIGURE OF THE HERMAPHRODITE
CAST FROM THE ANTIQUE MARBLE RESTORED BY IPPOLITO BUZZI IN 1621-23, ITALY, PROBABLY MID-17TH CENTURY
Depicted lying on a tiger skin and a rockwork base; one toe of the proper right foot lacking; the end of the base also lacking, apparently as a result of difficulties with the casting
57 ½ x 26 ¾ x 15 in. (146 x 68 x 38 cm.)
Provenance
Purchased by a private collector (1887-1961) in the late 1920s, and thence by descent to the present owners.
Literature
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
G. Mansuelli, Galleria degli Uffizi - Le Sculture, I, Rome, 1958, no. 53, pp. 82-83.
F. Haskell and N. Penny, Taste and the Antique - The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, New Haven and London, 1981, p. 235.
J. Montague, Roman Baroque Sculpture - The Industry of Art, New Haven and London, 1989, p. 161.
Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Mythologica et Erotica - Arte e Cultura dall' antichità al XVIII secolo, 2 Oct. 2005 - 15 Mar. 2006, O. Casazza and R. Gennaioli eds., no. 142.
J. Bassett, 'Thermoluminescence dating for European Sculpture', in Objects Specialty Group Postprints, Volume Fourteen (2007) from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, pp. 32-46.
Exhibited
'Kunstpalast' museum, Bad Ems, Germany, 1953-61 (see comparative image).
Special notice

Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square not collected from Christie’s by 5.00 pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Cadogan Tate. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Cadogan Tate Ltd. All collections will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Lot Essay

Hermaphroditus was the mythological figure whose name was derived from his two parents, Hermes and Aphrodite. Originally male, he was bathing in a lake when one of Diana's nymphs, Salmacis, saw him and fell in love with him. She is said to have embraced him so passionately that their bodies were merged and he was henceforth half male and half female.

The Ludovisi Hermaphrodite

On the basis of detailed photographs and measurements, the present large scale bronze appears to have been cast directly from an antique marble example in the Uffizi, Florence, which was first recorded in the celebrated collection of antiquities formed by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1632), in Rome (Mansuelli, loc. cit.). It was traditionally thought that the Uffizi Hermaphrodite and the even more famous example now housed in the Louvre, were both derived from a lost bronze original described by Pliny as having been executed by the sculptor Polyclitus. Ludovisi had the marble restored in 1621-23 by the sculptor Ippolito Buzzi and commissioned an elaborate giltwood base for it to rest on (Montagu, loc. cit.). It was acquired in 1669 by Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who took it to Florence where it is displayed in a room named after it, the Sala dell' Ermafrodito. Both the Louvre and Uffizi Hermaphrodites were among the most admired antiquities in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries, with bronze reductions of the Louvre variant created by sculptors such as Gianfrancesco Susini, Zoffoli and Righetti (Haskell and Penny, loc. cit.).

Bronzes on the scale of the present lot are rare in the 17th century, and the present example would have been an important commission from a wealthy patron. It is possible that it was executed for Ludovisi himself, done at the same time that Buzzi restored the antique marble. The original antique fragment included the head - without the nose - and upper body of the figure, down to a line running beneath the buttocks. The sculptor had to replace the nose and create a model of the legs and part of the base from which to carve the marble replacements. It is possible that the present bronze was cast to commemorate this achievement or, alternatively, it could have been cast at the time of the sale of the marble to the Medici so that the Ludovisi family could retain an example of the composition. Records at the Uffizi are incomplete, with the first documented reference to a cast taken of their marble Hermaphrodite only coming in a report of 1858 which states that 'previous casts were badly done' (AGU, Filza 1858, LXXXII, part I). It is not known how much earlier these casts were created and it appears that they were executed in plaster (personal communication to the present owners from F. Paolucci).

Technical Analysis

Despite a thermoluminescence test which suggests a later date of production, there are numerous reasons to support a 17th century date for the present bronze. First among these is the fact that it is known there are numerous factors which can affect thermoluminescence results, among them the type of clay that is used for the core, and whether the core is made of a clay and plaster mixture (Bassett, op. cit., p. 36). Technical aspects of the casting also suggest an early dating. Analysis of the alloy shows there to be a high copper content (93%) but also numerous other trace elements including nickel, antimony and arsenic. This is an indication of a relatively unsophisticated refining process consistent with a pre-19th century date of production. The thick and uneven walls of the bronze, as well as the fact that the founder evidently had difficulties with the pouring which resulted in the bronze not flowing properly into the mould are also consistent with an early dating. The founder had to patch the flaws extensively, including large rectangular sections of bronze inserted in the back, the buttocks and the proper right leg. By the later 18th and 19th centuries, the casting process had become so advanced and standardised that bronzes could be executed with thin, even walls - thereby saving money on the bronze - and rarely with any patches or plugs required. In the opinion of both Rupert Harris - a specialist in bronze conservation of over 30 years standing - and Dr. Charles Avery - art historian and former Deputy Keeper of Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum - (on the basis of high quality photographs) the present bronze Hermaphrodite shows all the signs of having been cast in the 17th century.

The History of the Bronze

The Hermaphrodite was displayed for a number of years in a private museum in Bad Ems, Germany. This museum was later closed and on the death of the owner the bronze passed to his descendants. It was eventually placed in the garden of their house, and photographs taken at this time show that the bronze exhibited a shiny dark surface. Over the years, exposure to the elements has resulted in the appealing, almost archaeological, patination seen today. It is a surface that is entirely appropriate for the subject and origin of the composition. The very existence of this impressive bronze is a testament to the enduring appeal of its antique subject matter.




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