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Sotheby's to sell rediscovered sculpture by American artist Janet Scudder
Marble sculpture of Christopher Columbus emerges at auction for the first time. Photo: Sotheby's.


LONDON.- On 21 May 2014 in London, Sotheby’s will bring to auction a rediscovered cast of American sculptor Janet Scudder’s The Young Diana, one of her most successful compositions. The sculpture, which recently came to light in an Italian private collection, is identical to the lost statue acquired by the oil industrialist and philanthropist Harold Irving Pratt. This was the primary version, one of three extant casts, which Pratt purchased for $800 for the gardens at Welwyn, his estate at Glen Cove, Long Island. The cast disappeared as sections of the estate were reappropriated after the death of his wife in 1969. Several images of this cast survive and show the limbs of the bow having a distinctive shaped nock with a groove to hold the string. All three casts have different bows, probably a result of a misunderstanding at the foundry: the limbs were cast separately and even though Scudder may have intended the two nocks to differ, the foundry assembled the bows freely with the interchangeable limbs, creating the three variations. A second cast was bequeathed by a Cleveland businessman to the Cleveland Museum of Art; the third was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1918 to 1926 (now in a private collection). The Young Diana will be offered in a sale of 19th and 20th Century Sculpture with an estimate of £120,000-180,000 / $197,820-296,730.

The Young Diana was conceived during one of Scudder’s many stints in Europe and modelled in a Paris studio in 1910. The figure is based on the likeness of Betty, the daughter of one of Scudder’s travel companions, the American painter Bryson Burroughs. The bronze toured international exhibitions in Europe and America in the 1910s, prompting some of America’s wealthiest collectors to commission different versions. Scudder’s playful sculptures established her reputation among the North American elite. Her work is inhabited by children, animals and fairy-tale characters, invariably rendered with spirit and charm. The Young Diana is the most successful example of the artist’s realisation of force and movement in her subjects through precocious balancing and silhouettes. The elegance and lightness with which the girl is poised atop the orb attracted critical praise, and a prize at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco in 1913.

Janet Scudder (1869-1940) was born in Terre Haute, Indiana into an impoverished family plagued by misfortune. With the help of friends and relatives she enrolled in local art classes and later the Cincinnati Academy of Art. Following a succession of wood carving and studio assistant jobs in Cincinnati and later Chicago, and a number of years spent travelling as an artistic companion to a succession of American heiresses, from 1900 onwards she focused on frivolous representations of children and youthful literary characters, and swiftly found recognition and a steady stream of commissions. Around 1908-1913, Scudder produced her best work, such as The Young Diana, and equally sharpened her pen and tongue during this time, lashing out to dilettante women artists, gender inequality, and dull art.

The sale features a further sculpture which now emerges at auction for the first time. For over a century, Emilio Zocchi’s Young Christopher Columbus gazing out to Sea inspired school girls in the parlour of the Academy of Saint Joseph in Brentwood, New York, which was a boarding school for young ladies. The youthful Christopher Columbus, gazing out at the seas he would conquer en route to the New World, is likely to have been placed in the Academy as a totem of American freedom and independence. The marble, carved in 1864 by the virtuoso Florentine sculptor, was probably exhibited in the Americas at the International Exhibition of Santiago, Chile in 1875. Zocchi’s youthful representations of heroic characters were major attractions at World’s Fairs across the globe at the time, and this sculpture was most likely created with the aim of selling it in ‘The New World’. Zocchi (1835-1913) consistently delighted his patrons with instantly recognisable young heroes: in Young Christopher Columbus the ingeniously textured map and crustacea hidden on the rocky vantage point allude to the Genoese sailor’s future endeavours. Zocchi’s expertly finished marble has not been seen in public since the Chile exhibition; it comes to the market from an Italian private collection with an estimate of £120,000-150,000 / $197,820-247,275.





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