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Post Lot Text
A BRONZE GROUP OF THE LAOCÖON
AFTER THE ANTIQUE, FRENCH, LATE 17TH OR EARLY 18TH CENTURY
Laocöon seated on a stepped base flanked by his two sons and wrestling with the serpents; on an integrally cast rectangular naturalistic base; transluscent reddish gold lacquer
This bronze group is based upon one of the most famous marbles from classical antiquity, which was discovered on 14 January 1506 near Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It depicts the priest, Laocöon, and his sons struggling hopelessly against the serpents which have been sent to kill them by the goddess Minerva. Its fame rested not only on its inherent artistic qualities, but on the fact that it was deemed to be the marble referred to by Pliny as having been executed for the palace of Titus.
Admiration for the group continued throughout the renaissance, baroque and neo-classical periods and it was widely reproduced by some of the most accomplished artists on both large and small scales. Among these, two groups are known to have been sent to France in the 16th century, and a version was executed by Tuby for Versailles in the late 17th century, as were bronze versions under the direction of Girardon (Haskell and Penny, loc. cit.). Although extremely close to a version attributed to Giovanni Battista Foggini in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (see P. Fogelman, P. Fusco and M. Cambareri, Italian and Spanish Sculpture - Catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection Los Angeles, 2002, no. 32), the present group would appear to have been executed in France in the late 17th or early 18th centuries. It is notable for having an integrally cast coat of arms on the reverse, presumably that of the family for whom the bronze was commissioned. Two other nearly identical bronze groups - both described as French - have recently passed through the London art market (Christie's, 7 July 1987, lot 174 and Sotheby's, 9 July 1992, lot 161).