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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Five Centuries Of Art At Bonhams Inaugural Sculpture Sale

Bonhams is to hold its first Sculpture Sale at its New Bond Street salerooms on 15 April 2008. Over 120 works of art by some of the world’s most revered sculptors, and spanning five centuries, will go under the hammer in London next month. The sale embraces sculpture from a number of different media and features a diverse range of subject matter, from classical and mythological characters to historic figures and animals.

the-ideal-christ.jpgOne of the highlights of the sale is a white marble bust of “The Ideal Christ” by the celebrated American sculptor, Hiram Powers (1805-1873), estimated at £20,000-30,000. The whereabouts of the bust remained unknown until it was recently identified and as the sole surviving version of three replicas, it is bound to attract much attention. Carved from white marble, Christ’s head looks slightly downwards with his shoulders clad in a folded and draped robe. The bust is recorded as being bought by Lord Tapling – a wealthy English politician, businessman, and noted philatelist – in 1873. The other two versions of the Ideal Christ were in private American family collections, although they are now thought to be lost.


A stone carving of “Dementia”, thought to be by the English sculptor Cauis Gabriel Cibber, (English 1630-1700) is expected to fetch £15,000-20,000. Cibber’s most famous works are the male figures of “Melancholy” and “Raving Madness” originally at the Bethlehem Hospital, also known as Bedlam. The female figure of “Dementia” displays the same thematic and stylistic characteristics as the Bedlam figures, strongly suggesting that it was made by the same hand.

“Dementia”, which stands over a metre tall, has influenced the work of more contemporary sculptors and is mentioned in Henry Moore’s autobiography: “I think this is a very good Cibber. He has used the material well. It has strength and monumentality about it. It’s one of the figures of the Raving and Melancholy Madness for the gates of the Old Bedlam Hospital”

Also included in the sale is an important bust of Ignace Jan Paderewski, one of the world’s most renowned pianists and composers, by Sir Alfred Gilbert (English 1854-1934). Gilbert, who is best known for his statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, was one of the chief participants in the New Sculpture movement that invigorated sculpture in Britain at the end of the 19th Century. The bust, estimated at £40,000-60,000, was executed in one sitting and completed in just two hours whilst Paderewski played the piano in Gilbert’s studio. The end result captures the spontaneity and energy of both the sculptor and the sitter.

A number of pieces date to the 16th and 17th Centuries, during which period sculpture underwent a major revival. A bronze plaquette depicting one of Diana’s nymphs, which belonged to the Florentine Prince Cosimo Medici, is expected to fetch up to £3,000. The plaque, which was made by Il Moschino (c.1523-1578), was described at length by Vasari who states that it was presented to Cosimo I by the artist on his arrival at court in order to solicit employment.

Another exceptional example of a High Renaissance work is a composition of Pax with the Pieta, estimated at £2,000-3,000. Cast in the late 16th, the most likely author of the work is Jacopo del Duca, who helped Michelangelo to craft the Porta Pia.

Two bronze compositions by Francesco Bertos, (Italian 1678-1741) from the collection of the renowned collector, Dr Charles Avery, are included in the sale. The first, a Paduan bronze vessel with four putti is expected to fetch £18,000-22,000 and the second, a bronze group of “Intellect carving Truth”, is estimated at £12,000-18,000.

Harvey Cammell, Bonhams Director says: “This is the first time that Bonhams has held a sale dedicated solely to sculpture in direct response to the level of demand for sculpture over the last few years. The sale is well represented by items from all the major periods over the last 500 years and we are delighted to be offering further items from the collection of the distinguished academic and collector, Dr Charles Avery”.

Also included in the sale:

Lot 124. A bronze figure of “The Sluggard” by Lord Frederick Leighton (British, 1830-1896), £10,000-15,000
Lot 325. A bronze bust of Maurice Bernhardt, reputedly “the most handsome man in Paris” by Sarah Bernhardt £3,000-5,000
Lot 55. A bronze figure entitled “Jeune Pêcheur à la Coquille” by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, French (1827-1875) £25,000-35,000
Lot 29. A life-size carved white marble figure of Diana the Huntress, French 18th Century £10,000-15,000
Lot 36. A bronze figure of Julius Ceasar, Italian 19th century, £4,000-6,000
Lot 52. A bronze figure of Napoleon by Maruis-Jean-Antonin Mercié, £5,000-7,000
Lot 106. A terracotta bust of Beethoven by Ferdinand Cian (Italian, early 20th century), £3,000-5,000