No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT payable at 19.6% (5.5% for books) will be added to the buyer’s premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis
Post Lot Text
A BRONZE GROUP OF THE RAPE OF A SABINE
AFTER GIAMBOLOGNA (1529-1608), ATTRIBUTED TO FERDINANDO TACCA (1619-1686), CIRCA 1650-1660
The three figure-group on an integrally cast naturalistic base and an associated gilt-bronze-mounted spreading rectangular plinth with inlaid brass and tortoiseshell scrolling decoration, with applied gilt-bronze masks and scrolling corner mounts; dark brown patina with warm medium high points and traces of a reddish gold lacquer; very minor damages to plinth
The Rape of a Sabine Woman is one of Giambologna's most famous and successful compositions, illustrating as it does his skill at combining three figures in a complex arrangement that requires the onlooker to view the group from multiple perspectives. The present bronze group is a reduction of Giambologna's large marble, commissioned by the Grand Duke Francesco de' Medici and unveiled in 1583. It remains in its original location in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence.
The evolution of the composition for this group is well-documented. As early as 1579 Giambologna had created a two figure group of a man carrying off a woman for Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma. In a letter to the duke he writes: 'Havevo apunto compito et rinettato il groppo delle due Figure di Bronzo che io promessi a V. Ecc. Ill. ma di volerli fare quin li mandaj il Mercurio e la Femina' ('I have just completed and chased the bronze group of two figures which I promised your most Illustrious Excellency to make when I sent you the Mercury and the Woman', quoted in Filangieri di Candida, op. cit., pp. 20-21). Interestingly, Giambologna suggested that the group could be interpreted as any number of different subjects; for him, it was not the narrative which was of importance but the opportunity it gave him to resolve the composition of two struggling figures.
However, such a group could only have been conceived to be cast in metal, as the weight of the sculpture in marble could never have been supported on the two thin ankles of the male figure. As a result, the group in the Loggia dei Lanzi - by now designated as the Rape of a Sabine - incorporates a third figure crouching between the legs of the Roman captor. The third figure thus plays a crucial role in both helping to create the spiral composition so admired by artists of the period, as well as in providing structural support for the figures above it.
Examples of the three figure group exist in bronze in numerous early collections including that of the Prince of Liechtenstein (see Frankfurt, Museum alter Plastik, Die Bronzen der Furstlichen Sammlung Liechtenstein, 26 Nov. 1986 - 15 Feb. 1987, no. 16, pp. 176-177) although, to date, none of the casts appears to have been cast and chased by Giambologna himself (Avery, 1987, op. cit., no. 89, p. 263). Rather, the extant bronzes all bear the hallmarks of Giambologna's principal assistant, Antonio Susini, and his successors Gianfrancesco Susini and Ferdinando Tacca.
After Giambologna's death in 1608, his assistant Pietro Tacca took over as court sculptor to the Medici Grand Dukes and when Tacca himself died in 1640, the role went to his son Ferdinando. Ferdinando thus inherited Giambologna's workshop and foundry in the Borgo Pinti and he can also be considered Giambologna's artistic heir, carrying on as he did the elegant mannerist style of late 16th century Florence well into the mid 17th century. Today, there are relatively few documented works by Ferdinando from which to construct a reliable oeuvre, however one of his most important commissions was for the bronze relief of the Martyrdom of St. Stephen in Santo Stefano al Ponte, Florence.
In a paper on Ferdinando Tacca by Anthony Radcliffe (op. cit.), the latter attributes a number of small bronze groups to Tacca on the basis of their similarity to the Martyrdom relief, and it is in looking both at these bronzes and the relief itself which allows us to attribute the present bronze to Tacca as well. The first notable similarity is in the finishing of the rockwork base. It is almost a signature of the artist that he finishes his bases with a series of swirling patterns of punched trails as is evident on the base here. However, more importantly, it is in the execution of the finer details that Tacca allows himself to leave his own artistic imprint on Giambologna's composition. In particular, the facial type of the Sabine woman - with its rounded proportions, long nose and opened mouth - recalls directly the face of the seated woman in the right foreground of the Martyrdom relief (for an illustration of the latter see Radcliffe, op. cit., fig. 3). The present bronze group therefore represents an amalgam of two of Florence's greatest sculptors in bronze: Giambologna, who created the original composition, and Ferdinando Tacca, who added his own artistic interpretation.