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Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
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Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
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Property from a Distinguished East Coast Collection
Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916)

Lionne de Nubie

Details
Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916)
Lionne de Nubie
signed and stamped with foundry mark 'R. Bugatti. A.A. HÉBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (on the top of the base)
bronze with reddish brown patina
Height: 16 ¼ in. (41.3 cm.)
Length: 26 ½ in. (68 cm.)
Conceived circa 1909-1910 and cast by 1934
Provenance
Private collection, United States.
The Sladmore Gallery, London (1996).
Private collection, New York (1997).
The Sladmore Gallery, London (2010).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, September 2011.
Literature
P. Dejean, Carlo-Rembrandt-Ettore-Jean Bugatti, Paris, 1981, p. 160 (another cast illustrated).
J.-C. des Cordes and V. Fromanger, Rembrandt Bugatti: Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1987, pp. 246-247 (another cast illustrated; titled Lionne d'Afrique).
E. Horswell, Rembrandt Bugatti: Life in Sculpture, London, 2004, pp. 13 and 181 (detail of another cast illustrated in color, p. 12; other casts illustrated in color, pp. 182-183).
V. Fromanger, Rembrandt Bugatti sculpteur: Répertoire monographique, Paris, 2009, pp. 309-310, no. 232 (another cast illustrated, pp. 175 and 309).
V. Fromanger, Rembrandt Bugatti sculpteur: Répertoire monographique, Paris, 2016, p. 343, no. 236 (another cast illustrated in color).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

Véronique Fromanger has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Of the many species Bugatti studied and sculpted, the most celebrated and certainly his favorite were wild cats. Conceived circa 1909-10, at the height of his career, Bugatti’s Lionne de Nubie is endowed with a quiet grace and power. Still in his mid-twenties at this time of its conception, Bugatti had already established an impressive reputation as a sculptor. Rather than presenting highly detailed yet generic impressions of his subjects, as was the case for many artists associated with the 19th century animalier movement, Bugatti differed from his predecessors through the close contact he had with his subjects. Where other animalier artists sculpted in their studios, referring to sketches and photographs, Bugatti modeled his works in situ. To facilitate working outdoors, he chose to use plastilina, an oil and wax-based clay. This pliable material meant more time could be spent sculpting his subjects, resulting in greater accuracy and expression. Stories were told of animals responding to Bugatti’s presence with affection, the wild seeming tame in his presence.
Though originally modeled as a separate work, the Lionne de Nubie was first cast together with her male counterpart, presented as a unit, prowling the fields together. The male and female lions were later cast as separate editions. Each has a majestic spirit and raw dynamism which is captured in their individual likenesses. A sub-species of the Panthera leo, the Nubian Lion is extinct in the wild, with only 40 believed to be in captivity in present-day Europe. Also known as the Barbery or Atlas Lion, it is believed to be the largest of the entire species. Bugatti must have been impressed by the sheer magnitude of the animal. In contrast to his snarling Grand Tiger, he did not choose to render the animal here with any additional signs of ferocity, perhaps considering that her presence alone was sufficient to convey her might.
In addition to its profound sensibility, Lionne de Nubie reveals the extent to which Bugatti was able to balance timelessness with modernity. Although depicted with subjective accuracy, the lion is endowed with a discreet stylization. It is only natural that Bugatti would be positioned to create works that synthesized both the appearance and presence of his subjects and also the artistic developments of the day, as his father was a highly successful furniture designer, whose works are still sought-after to this day.
Bugatti's impressive rendering of the mighty lioness captures the animal in all her majesty. She stands with a poise befitting the regality of the queen of the jungle. As Edward Horswell has written about Bugatti’s Nubian lions, "These works have a majesty and poignancy that mark them amongst Bugatti's 'stand-alone' masterpieces. The almost robotic power of the female (the principal hunter in lion society), and the heavy vigilance of the male, evoke a mesmerizing presence, close to that of a carved King and Queen from Ancient Egypt. The psychological depth of Bugatti's animals has never been equaled. At the same time they stand as authoritative and unsentimental statements of anatomical observation, documentary record and aesthetic accomplishment" (Rembrandt Bugatti: Life in Sculpture, London, 2004, p. 182).

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