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9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm.) high
14 in. (35.5 cm.) high, overall
Fernand Adda (1890-1965).
His sale; Palais Galliera, Paris, 29 November-3 December 1965, lot 397, illustrated, as Venus après le bain.
Djanhanguir Riahi (1914-2014), acquired at the above sale.
By descent to his heirs.
Their sale; Christie's, London, 10 July 2014, lot 50.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. von Schlosser, Werke der Kleinplastik in der Skulpturensammlung des A. H. Kaiserhauses, Vienna, vol. 1, 1910, p. 10.
C. Avery and A. Radcliffe, eds., Giambologna (1529-1608): Sculptor to the Medici, London, 1978, p. 62.
C. Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, Frome, Somerset, 1987, pp. 97-107.
A. Radcliffe, Giambologna's Cesarini Venus, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 1993, p. 15-16.
A. Radcliffe, 'Giambologna's "Venus" For Giangiorgio Cesarini: A Recantation,' La Scultura: Studi in Onore Di Andrew S. Ciechanowiecki, A. González-Palacios, vol. II, 1996, pp. 64.
S. Sturman, 'A Group of Giambologna Female Nudes: Analysis and Manufacture,' Small Bronzes in the Renaissance, New Haven and London, 1998, pp. 131, 133.
M. Leithe-Jasper and P. Wengraf, European Bronzes from the Quentin Collection, exh. cat. New York, 2004, pp. 146-157, no. 12.
W. Seipel, ed., Giambologna: Triumph des Körpers, exh. cat., Vienna, 2006, p. 198.
Special Notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

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Joshua Glazer
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Lot Essay

The present bronze, one of just four known casts on this scale, is an exceptional example of the work of master Renaissance sculptors Giambologna (1529-1608) and his principle assistant Antonio Susini (fl. 1580-1624). Many of Giambologna’s most celebrated compositions are believed to have been executed by Susini, combining the former’s ingenious compositions with the latter’s unparalleled technical ability in bronze production. Their combined talents are exemplified in this cast of the Cesarini Venus which is delicately finished with a rich patina that became the hallmark of the finest Florentine bronzes of the period.

Small bronzes like the present lot were in high demand among noble patrons in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and were often given as diplomatic gifts. To meet this demand, Giambologna trained a series of assistants who assimilated his style and were able to execute bronzes from the master's models. Antonio Susini is known to have trained in Giambologna’s workshop between circa 1580 and 1600 and specialized in preparing moulds of Giambologna’s models for casting and finishing these statuettes when cast (Avery, 1978, op. cit., p. 157). After 1600 he left to work independently, becoming successful in his own right. He continued to cast bronzes from models by his former master in addition to designing his own original compositions. Even after he set up on his own, Susini’s style remained very close to that of Giambologna meaning that it is not always easy to distinguish between the sculptures of the assistant and those of the master as their works are both stylistically and compositionally intertwined. However, several elements of the present bronze, in particular the finely chiseled surface, sharp, angular folds of the drapery, and defined pupils and irises are all characteristic of the work of Susini, Giambologna’s principal assistant.

The composition of the present lot is related to a marble figure carved by Giambologna in Florence in the period 1580-1583, today known as the Cesarini Venus. 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 Ludovisi, Cesarini's palace in Rome, as soon as he had completed all his existing commissions (Wengraf in Seipel, op. cit., p. 118). 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 (Radcliffe, 1996, op. cit., p. 60). Presumably completed in 1583, it was installed in the Villa Ludovisi, where it still stands today, the villa now housing the American Embassy. In 1616 the marble was broken into many pieces and restored. During the restoration it was set into the present, circular base which, along with the more elaborate coiffure, differentiates it from our bronze model (Wengraf in Seipel, op. cit., pp. 119-120).

The present bronze is known in only three other examples of the same scale: one in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (24.8 cm, inv. no. 5874, engraved 'IOANNES / BOLOGNA . BELGA’ to base of pedestal); one previously belonging to the Hearn family trust, New York (24.9 cm); and another in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (inv. no. 5523). The Vienna example is the best known version and has been examined for several exhibitions and publications. It is first recorded with certainty in Schloss Ambras, where it was documented in an inventory of 1730 (Leithe-Jasper and Wengraf, op. cit., p. 151). The present bronze was examined next to the Vienna example in 1994 when it was suggested that the two were probably cast from the same piece-moulds (Private correspondence from D. Ekserdjian to D. Riahi, 14 April 1994). Sturman’s technical analysis that showed the Vienna bronze to be an indirect cast leaves open this possibility (Sturman, loc. cit.). The most notable differences are that in the present example the left breast is more modestly covered, the details of the plaiting in the coiffure and curls of hair and the channelling of the folds of drapery vary slightly, while the right foot is slightly counter-sunk into the surface of the base, which possibly accounts for the millimeter difference in the overall heights of the two statuettes.

The dating of this group of bronzes, and their relation to Giambologna’s marble figure has been subject to prolonged debate. In 1584 Giambologna's biographer Borghini described a diplomatic gift from Cosimo I de’ Medici to Emperor Maximillian II in 1565 of ‘una figurina pur di metallo’ which von Schlosser associated with the bronze model of Venus Drying Herself (Schlosser, loc. cit.). This assumption led scholars to the conclusion that the bronzes had to pre-date the marble Venus and that for Cesarini’s commission Giambologna transformed a small model he made twenty years earlier into a life-size marble, reversing his more typical process of making bronze reductions of his marbles as collectors’ pieces (Radcliffe, 1996, loc. cit.). As Radcliffe argued, at the time of Cesarini’s commission Giambologna was exceptionally busy (ibid.). Re-working an earlier model would have been a time-saving device. However there must be some doubt whether Giambologna would have been content to reproduce an old model for one of his more important commissions. Previous translations of Borghini’s note as ‘a female figure also of metal’ (Wengraf in Seipel, op. cit., p. 118) may also be misleading, as ‘figurina’ literally translates into English as 'figurine’ and is therefore not gender specific. The gift to the Emperor could have been either a male or female figure. More recently, scholars have suggested that the creation of the first examples in bronze must have been contemporary with the carving of the marble in the early 1580s (Kryza-Gersch in Seipel, op. cit., no. 3, pp. 195-198).

Although the early provenance for the present lot is not known there are several descriptions of the composition in sixteenth and early seventeenth century inventories which could describe the present bronze. For example, in 1586 Ferdinando de’ Medici sent Emperor Rudolf 'Una Venere di mano di Giovanni Bologna, simile a quella del S.or Cesarini’ (‘a Venus from the hand of Giambologna similar to that of Signor Cesarini’). By the 1607-1611 inventory of Rudolf’s Kunstkammer, the Emperor had seemingly acquired a second cast. A third cast of this model is also recorded in inventories of the Villa Medici in 1588 and 1671 (Wengraf in Seipel, op. cit., pp. 118-120).

The bronze offered here is the result of the artistic talents of two of the most celebrated sculptors working in late Renaissance Italy at the height of their powers to create a piece of exceptional technical quality, beauty and artistic innovation.

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