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Beauty and the beast: Roman goddesses and court dwarves at Bonhams sale
Another striking sculpture in the sale is an Italian 19th Century marble group showing the dwarf Morgante riding a turtle, estimated at £40,000 – 60,000. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- Exceptional marble sculptures representing figures from lost societies across the ages will be among the highlights of Bonhams Fine European Furniture, Sculpture & Works of Art sale on 13th December at New Bond Street, London.

A magnificent marble bust of the goddess of Spring Proserpine, by the renowned American sculptor Hiram Powers, is estimated at £30,000 – 50,000. Exquisitely sculpted in white marble, the figure shows the superior skill of Hiram Powers, one of the greatest American sculptors of the 19th Century. He held strong views about the aim of art being spiritual, which led him to create ‘ideal’ sculpture representing an archetypal beauty.

Proserpine was an important figure in Roman mythology and her story played an integral role in shaping views on fertility and the seasonal changes. According to myth she was abducted by Pluto, the god of the underworld, and held for four months, her release ending Winter and inducing the start of Spring. Power’s bust of Proserpine was his most popular sculpture leading him to produce several versions over the years, some life-sized.

Another striking sculpture in the sale is an Italian 19th Century marble group showing the dwarf Morgante riding a turtle, estimated at £40,000 – 60,000. The sculpture is based on a design for a fountain, commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first of the Grand-Dukes of Tuscany in the 16th Century. The eye-catching piece represents another key figure in society, the court jester or court dwarf.

It was common for courtiers to “own” a court dwarf who would often also act as a jester to offer entertainment to the rulers. They would often be traded as gifts to kings and queens and would raise the social standing of the owner. As small people were often regarded as ‘lucky charms’, they were highly desirable in the courts. The sculpture of ‘Morgante’ shows Braccio di Bartolo, the court dwarf in the late 16th Century. Ironically named after the giant Morgante Maggiore from a renowned poem at the time, he is recorded as joining the Medici court around 1540. In another ironic gesture, he is depicted in a similar position to that of Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue in Rome.

An impressive pair of Venetian early 20th Century Belgian black and specimen marble busts of an African king and queen, estimated at £40,000 – 60,000 are also among important sculptural works in the sale. These imposing figures are highly decorated with leopard- and tiger-skin headpieces, denoting the high social standing of these figures.

In addition to fascinating sculpture, the sale includes a stunning selection of exquisitely made furniture. Among the most noteworthy items from the property of Viscount Strathallan are a French 18th Century Louis XV occasional table (£7,000 – 10,000) and a French 18th Century Louis XVI secrétaire à abattant (£8,000 – 12,000). The occasional table is ormolu-mounted amaranth, kingwood and tulipwood parquetry and marquetry, while the secrétaire is made from amaranth, fruitwood and parquetry.

François Le Brun, Director of European Furniture commented, “Our December sale is a feast for the senses. We have some extraordinary works of sculpture as well as exquisite pieces of furniture from across Europe. The figures offered for sale give a fascinating insight into the way sculpture was used to immortalise key members of society, whether a king or queen, goddess or the court dwarf. It was an incredibly effective way to elevate these important figures and to commemorate their roles in shaping the way we live today.”

Bonhams | Beauty and the Beast | Proserpine | London |


Last Week News

December 10, 2012

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts

Arte Primitivo announces auction of Tribal and pre-Columbian, Classical, Egyptian and Asian antiquities

National Endowment for the Humanities awards grant to Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum

Cleveland Museum of Natural History announces capital campaign, leadership team

Austrian artist Yadegar Asisi presents 360 degree panorama of baroque Dresden

Christie's sale of masterpieces formerly in the Collection of Monsieur and Madame Riahi realises $31.9 M

Indianapolis Museum of Art premieres first major exhibition focusing on the use of graphite

Christie's presents a week-long series of auctions devoted to magnificent jewels, watches, wine and design

Phillips de Pury & Co. announces highlights from its New York December Design Auctions

Japanese art exhibitions during New York's Asia Week celebrations announced

Simon Lee Gallery presents an exhibition of new work by the American artist Sherrie Levine

What is Grey Exactly? The (non-)colour grey in Swiss art from the 1960s to the present

Fiona Rukschcio retapes Yoko Ono's film "Rape" for new exhibition at the Secession

Exhibition at MICA and University of the Arts honors legendary fiber artist Lenore Tawney

Amicable settlement between auction house Lempertz and buyer of false Heinrich Campendonk painting

First institutional exhibition of works by artist Cheyney Thompson opens at Kunstverein Braunschweig

Patek Philippe dome clock by graffiti artist John "CRASH" Matos offered in Antiquorum's December auction

Seventh Asia Pacific Triennial opens in Queensland

Nightfall: New tendencies in figurative painting at MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts

End may be sight for FBI's unloved Hoover building

December 9, 2012

Park Avenue Armory presents Ann Hamilton's first installation in New York in over a decade

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art celebrates 15 years of the Logan Collection

Industrial history brings new life to Parisian suburb just a 20-minute metro ride from the city centre

The Heckscher Museum of Art presents "Modernizing America: Artists of the Armory Show"

Tortoiseshell craftsmen adapt to new century turning out only 100 pairs of hand made glasses per year

Head of the Institute of Archeology of Belize sues over Indiana Jones crystal skull

Six and seven figure sales dominate the first three days of contemporary and modern art fair Art Miami

Georgia Museum of Art exhibits works by American painter and printmaker Minna Citron

Air de Paris exhibits works by Adriana Lara, Guy de Cointet, Trisha Donnelly and Allen Ruppersberg

Franklin Bowles Gallery in New York opens exhibition by the Spanish artist Miquel Gelabert

First major UK solo exhibition by Libyan Italian artist Adelita Husni-Bey opens at Gasworks

Recent acquisitions and a new exhibition announced at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Liz Deschenes’s photographic works on view in new exhibition at Vienna's Secession

Grosvenor Gallery presents works by one of the greatest masters of postwar Greek art

Galerie Michel Rein in Paris opens exhibition by Christian Hidaka

Discovery in New England brings to light an obscure California-made motorcycle once thought 'extinct'

One-time refugee from punk and sometime band member Ted Riederer exhibits at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

Great Dam of China opens the floodgates for artist Donald Wyland

New Museum announces limited-edition wearable MP3 player featuring fifteen live performances

Michaan's Tiffany Auction produces multimillion dollar sale

December 8, 2012

Archaeologists find Maya ceramics and mural paintings in three underwater caves in Mexico

Fortuny and Wagner:Wagnerism in the visual arts in Italy opens at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice

Discovered: French and Italian archaeologists find the lost port of ancient Rome

Ringling organizes America's first comprehensive Veronese exhibition in two decades

New role for Curator Scott Rothkopf at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York

Rio bids final farewell to star architect Niemeyer with national tribute worthy of a head of state

Flowers Gallery presents a selection of photographs from Edmund Clark's Guantanamo: If The Light Goes Out

Exhibition of recent works by Giovanni Anselmo, Jannis Kounellis, Giuseppe Penone and Emilio Prini at Sprovieri

Peabody Essex Museum appoints Austen Barron Bailly as its first Curator of American Art

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to lead Philadelphia's National Constitution Center

Dazzling prices in £6m Bonhams Fine Jewellery Sale with over £1m for Van Cleef & Arpels brooch

If you will it, it is not a dream: Yael Bartana opens solo exhibition at Vienna's Secession

Portland Museum of Art breaks records for the month of November with Winslow Homer exhibition

Alaska reclaims missing moon rocks since 1973

Shortlist of The Art India Breakthrough Artist Award at the Skoda Prize announced

Winchester rifle belonging to "Doc" Carver, partner of Buffalo Bill, to be sold at auction

Pérez Art Museum Miami capital campaign receives $5 million contribution

Aargauer Kunsthaus opens survey of current art practices in the Canton of Aargau

Navajo child's blanket leads Bonhams $1.28 million Native American Art Sale in San Francisco

December 7, 2012

11th annual Art Basel Miami Beach features 257 leading international galleries

Cavemen better at drawing animal movement: study by open access journal PLoS ONE

Restoration of Jacopo da Pontormo altarpiece reveals unrecorded drawing clearly visible at the top

Berlin marks 100 years since Nefertiti find with major exhibition 'In The Light of Amarna'

Italian police recover 2,000-year-old Egyptian sphinx stolen from Etruscan necropolis of Montem Rossulum

Painting attributed to El Greco smashes pre-sale estimate at Bonhams Old Masters Sale

After a 4.8 million dollar makeover, London's Charles Dickens Museum reopens

1933 King Kong three sheet brings $388,375 to set house record at Heritage Auctions

Glassblowing comes to the iPhone: VMFA and The Martin Agency launch app inspired by Dale Chihuly's artwork

Swiss contemporary art generates enthusiasm among collectors at Sotheby's

The New Art Dealers Alliance returns to Miami Beach for the 10th edition of NADA Miami Beach

Bernar Venet invited by Bugatti to create a work of art on view at the Rubell Family Collection

Aqua's 8th installment packs another powerful punch during Art Basel Miami week

Tamara Beckwith, co-owner of the Little Black Gallery, joins Channel 4's Four Rooms

Sweden's Nationalmuseum announces acquisition of photographic portraits by Hans Gedda

RISD Museum bids farewell and warm wishes to Curator Judith Tannenbaum

The Helmut Newton Foundation opens exhibition of works by François-Marie Banier and Helmut Newton

World's most important porcelain tea service sells at Bonhams for £541,250

Just discovered Scharl Portrait of Einstein up for sale for first time

December 6, 2012

Raphael's Head of a Young Apostle achieves second-highest price for any Old Master work

Architect Oscar Niemeyer, who recreated Brazil's sensuous curves in reinforced concrete, dead at 104

The J. Paul Getty Museum announces acquisition of Northern Renaissance masterpiece

Norton Simon Museum presents an installation of Vincent van Gogh's "Self-Portrait," 1889

Exciting new finds highlight the ongoing success of the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme

Tate Modern's Turbine Hall to present electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk The Catalogue 12345678 live

Cleveland Museum of Art announces several recent acquisitions across all departments

Art Miami LLC to acquire vibrant Aqua Art Miami Fair in Miami Beach, now in its 8th year

"Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Prints and Objects" on view at the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum

Exhibition of Jonas Mekas' film, video and photographic works opens at the Serpentine Gallery

240 works by Honoré Daumier being shown to the public for the first time

'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz' love letters going to auction at Sotheby's in New York

Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History to unveil largest aquamarine gem

Record set at Kaminski Auctions for pair of rare English glass decanters

Beatles trove offered in Heritage December event to celebrate 50 years of 'Beatlemania'

Julian Lennon launches photo exhibit in Miami

"A Universal Archive: William Kentridge as Printmaker" opens at The Bluecoat in Liverpool

Analia Saban wins Norton Museum of Art's inaugural Rudin Prize

American paintings, scarce contemporary works bring high prices at Swann Galleries' auction

Evolve the Gallery loans Ali: The Greatest Collection to Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville

December 5, 2012

Louvre opens $196 million branch in an abandoned coal mining town in northern France

Rijksmuseum Schiphol celebrates ten-year anniversary with an exhibition of paintings

Bellwether year for interest in Islamic art increases demand for antique Oriental carpets

New York's Museum of Modern Art to display video games starting in March 2013

Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami is only U.S. venue for major Bill Viola exhibition

PULSE Miami 2012 art fair hosts eighty-six national and international galleries

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum names Greg Harris as President and CEO

Exceptional musical clock owned by Egypt's lavish monarch, King Farouk, leads Bonhams Fine Clocks Sale

Billboards in Times Square spread Yoko Ono's message of peace throughout the holiday season

Leading artists open exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts celebrating history of Fourth plinth

Solo exhibition of works by American painter Martin Mull opens at Ben Brown Fine Arts

Design Miami celebrates its eight edition with thirty-five participating galleries

A dozen church painters from European countries seek to revamp ancient practice

Bonhams Entertainment Sale to include memorabilia from acclaimed science fiction film and television series

Myanmar graffiti artists unhappy with new ban

Moscow Museum of Modern Art opens Aidan Salakhova's largest-ever exhibition

Gallery ups prize money for BP Portrait Award 2013 as call for entries is announced

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Dinosaur skull seized from Wyoming home

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2.- An ancient money box containing a large rare hoard of coins found in Israel

3.- Robin Williams' portrait installed today at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington

4.- The Baltimore Museum of Art announces three new contemporary exhibitions in fall

5.- New Aspen Art Museum designed by architect Shigeru Ban opens to the public

6.- New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art launches 82nd & Fifth app in 12 languages

7.- MoMA online-only publication features new research on Pablo Picasso and Cubism

8.- Volunteers needed for massive Smithsonian digitization project

9.- Tate Britain welcomes home John Everett Millais's Ophelia and Rossetti’s The Beloved

10.- Bogart estate: Hollywood golden age icon Lauren Bacall dead at 89 in New York

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