The present reliefs are representative of the revived interest in classical art during the 18th and 19th centuries. Rome especially was flourishing at that time from the influx of European tourists who came to study and collect antiquities as well as works of art. The English were among the wealthiest and by far the most enthusiastic collectors, thus, whatever was not available for purchase could be bought as a high quality replica by prominent artists such as Bartholomeo Cavaceppi in the 18th century and Benedetto Boschetti in the 19th century. There was also a contingent of English sculptors such as Thomas Banks, John Flaxman and Francis Chantrey who all managed to establish a reputation of their own by training and operating in Rome to cater for these discerning English collectors.
Interestingly, the antique prototypes of the present lot were not carved as a pair or, indeed, even displayed together in Rome; it was Flaxman who paired them after purchasing the plaster casts directly from the Capitoline. These patinated plasters are now housed in the Sir John Soane Museum, London (Thornton and Dorey, loc. cit).
Flaxman also comes closest in style and composition to the two present reliefs. His diploma piece entitled Apollo and Marpessa, executed around 1790 - 1794 (see Irwin, loc. cit), is a particularly interesting comparison to the Perseus rescuing Andromeda. In both cases the artists have paid attention to the modelling of the human form and the treatment of drapery. Also interesting is the way in which the compositions function; both artists have frozen a particular moment in time. In the former, Apollo draws Marpessa towards him while she tries to flee. Her left foot comes diagonally out of the relief as if to suggest she is stepping from the world of art into the real world. Andromeda does something very similar: she is depicted standing on her left foot and about to lower her right foot diagonally out of the relief when Perseus takes her by the arm.
What is obvious in all three reliefs is that their respective authors have adopted a classical canon for their conception and, although each is laden with classical elements, they somehow manage to break away from the rigidity of their prototypes and exude a more languid yet lively characteristic.