Mythological marble at Bonhams fine European furniture auction

A host of mythological marble sculptures stand among an impressive line up at the Fine European Furniture sale at Bonhams, New Bond Street on 12th December.

An early 19th century white marble sculpture of Venere (or Venus) is offered for sale with estimates of £60,000-£90,000. Venus holds the prize of a golden apple awarded to the fairest goddesses of Olympus and which was to start the war of Troy.

As ‘The Judgment of Paris’ narrates; Eris, the goddess of discord, was the only goddess of Olympus to be snubbed a wedding invitation. Turned away at the gates to the festivities and in a fit of rage Eris threw a golden apple addressed, “To the Fairest” amongst the crowd of other goddesses. The three who laid claim to the title were Aphrodite (the Greek name for Venus), Hera and Athena. Zeus ordered Paris of Troy to decide the issue and the three goddesses appeared before Paris with offers and gifts in attempts to gain favor. Aphrodite’s gift – the promise of marriage to Helene, the most beautiful woman in the world – swayed Paris’ judgment and won her the prize. The abduction of Helene to honor this agreement was to lead directly to the Trojan War and the fall of the city.

A white marble study of Pan and Syrinx brings to life another Greco-Roman myth. The 51.5cm high study shows the god, Pan with outstretched arm around the waist of the fleeing nymph, Syrinx and carries estimates of £30,000-£50,000.

As legend goes, Syrinx was an Arcadian nymph known for her chastity. Being pursued by the amorous Pan, she fled through the forest until her path was cut by a river. She pleaded in desperation to the river nymphs to be transformed into a reed. As Pan caught her around the waist, her wish was granted and Pan was left grasping an arm full of water reeds. As he let out a great sigh through the hollow reeds, a haunting sound was heard. Pan gathered the set of reeds into a pipe and was to carry his beloved Syrinx by his side everywhere he went.

Other highlights in the sale include The Annunciation, a Florentine 18th century pietre-dure panel by Baccio Cappelli of the Grand Ducal Workshops in Florence which is valued at £50,000-£80,000.

Pietre-dure in Italian means literally “hard rocks” and is an inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly-polished stones. The panel measures 65cm by 50cm, is beautifully inlaid with marble, colored stones and gilded gold and shows the Angel Gabriel surrounded by rays of light, kneeling before the seated Virgin. An open book by the Virgin’s side bears the words ‘ECCE VIRGO CONCIPIET ET PARIET FILIUM’ [Behold! A Virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son]. God the Father is shown amidst the clouds above.

The top lots in the sale are two pairs of impressive French 19th century gilt-bronze standing candelabra. Lots 168 and 169 each consist of a pair of eighteen branch candelabra and each lot is valued at £100,000-£200,000.

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