Christopher Mason, Sothebys
European Sculpture specialist, announced today: This spring Sotheby's will bring to market a highly desirable group of Victorian marble sculptures that have been off the market for over a century The Carbisdale Castle Collection. Encompassing the elegant Neoclassicism of the early part of the century to the fantastical Romanticism of the Belle Époque years, the works on offer shine a light not only on collecting tastes at the height of the British Empire, but also on how sculptors of the period created works of astonishing beauty and grace through their masterful handling of marble.
The sculptures from Carbisdale Castle, a magnificent Scots Baronial residence situated in the heart of the Highlands, are being offered for sale by the Scottish Youth Hostels Association (SYHA), the current custodians of the Castle and its collection. Together with an array of 36 Italian and Scottish nineteenth-century paintings, most of which are quality copies of Old Masters, the 17 sculptures will be presented for sale as part of Sotheby's 19th & 20th Century Sculpture auction on 20 May 2015 in London. The group, which also includes a nineteenth-century textile, is estimated to bring a combined total in the region of £500,000.
Keith Legge, CEO, Scottish Youth Hostels Associations, commented: It has been a privilege for SYHA to have been the custodian of Carbisdale Castle and its contents for the past 70 years enabling our members and guests to experience living in a castle. SYHA as a self-funding registered charity has a responsibility to manage appropriately its assets for the good of the organisation. The proceeds of the sale will be used to sustain SYHA's diverse youth hostel network of affordable fit-for-purpose accommodation, allowing everyone, but especially young people, to learn and experience what Scotland has to offer.
Pasquale Romanelli, Italian, 1812 - 1887 Andromeda white marble, on a revolving verde antico column. Estimate: £80,000-120,000
The Florentine sculptor Pasquale Romanelli achieved an international reputation for his finely carved mythological and biblical marble figures. With Andromeda and the sea monster Romanelli chose a subject that had fascinated artists since the Renaissance. While most artistic representations of the myth depict the moment in which Perseus comes to Andromedas rescue, Romanelli represents the maiden in the midst of her peril, seemingly setting eyes on the monster for the first time. Her theatrical gesture and wildly flowing hair appear almost baroque, while Romanellis interest in naturalistic detail is showcased in his virtuosic carving of the monster and rockwork.
Pasquale Romanelli, Italian, 1812 - 1887 Venus and Cupid white marble, on a revolving verde antico column Estimate: £60,000-80,000
This marble group is an enchanting example of the Florentine habit of combining classical subjects with the playful sentimentality of genre pieces, with Venus, the Roman goddess of love appearing as a contemporary country girl rather than a classical deity. Romanelli composed several groups of Venus and Cupid this version, both amusing and erotic, is among the most appealing of the sculptors mythological groups. Romanellis flawless handling of the marble in details and facial features reflects the excellence of his Florentine training.
Johann Christian Lotsch, German, 1790 - 1873 Cupid in Repose 1844, veined white marble, on a veined white marble base Estimate: £40,000-60,000
Lotsch created some of the most refined and lucidly composed Romantic marble carvings of the first half of the nineteenth century. This cupid in repose is a new addition to the oeuvre of 15 marbles by the artist. Cupid is shown seated, his head in his hand, with his bow and quiver cast down, the quiver empty, suggesting that love is languishing for the moment. Lotschs popularity among fellow artists and patrons enabled him to become a leading figure in the German colony of artists in Rome.
David Watson Stevenson, Scottish, 1842 - 1904 Nymph at the Stream 1872, white marble, on an oak panelled plinth
This beautiful marble nude nymph, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1874, is one of the few sculptures in the Carbisdale Castle Collection by a native Scottish sculptor. With its Italian overtones it is a reminder that the Dowager Duchess collecting tastes were simultaneously Scottish and international. The marble's calm solemnity, idealised physiognomy and folds of drapery recall the delicate classicism of an earlier generation of sculptors. Stevenson reveals himself to be a master sculptor in the beautifully carved pleated hair running down the nymphs back, and the gentle ripples on the surface of the water as she dips her toes into the steam.
Lawrence Macdonald, Scottish, 1799 - 1878 Venus 1857, white marble, on an oak panelled plinth Estimate: £30,000-50,000
This elegant figure of Venus is typical of the gentle classicism of the Neoclassical sculptor Lawrence Macdonald, one of the leading Scottish sculptors of the nineteenth century. The composition is derived from the celebrated Tauride Venus of Greek antiquity, known from a 2nd-century AD Roman Imperial copy in the Hermitage. In Rome, Macdonald became the favoured portrait sculptor of visiting Grand Tourists and the American elite. During his lifetime, sculptures by him could be found in the homes of leading members of Britain's aristocracy, including those of the Dukes of Northumberland and the Earls of Aberdeen.
History of Carbisdale Castle
Overlooking the Kyle of Sutherland and constructed between 1906 and 1917, Carbisdale Castle was the last castle to be built in Scotland. Its history is one of intrigue, scandal, war and peace, with the formidable figure of its first resident, Mary Caroline, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland (18481912) at its centre. Married three times, her first husband was Captain Arthur Kindersley Blair of the 71st Highland Light Infantry Regiment, who died mysteriously in a hunting accident in 1883. Her second husband was the 3rd Duke of Sutherland, with whom she had embarked on a love affair in the months leading up to the Captain's death. When the Duke's first wife died in 1889, there was no bar to wedding his long-term mistress and the two caused a scandal by marrying only four months after the Duchess' passing. Mary Caroline was branded the 'Duchess Blair' by the Victorian public, who regarded her as a social climber.
The Duke's death was the catalyst for a legal battle brought by the Duke's natural heirs, who contested a will which left Mary Caroline the majority of the Sutherland inheritance. When it emerged that the Dowager had destroyed documents, she was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. Upon the eventual agreement of a financial settlement, including the stipulation that the family construct a residence befitting her station, the Dowager set about the building of Carbisdale Castle, orchestrating its design to her exacting standards and, over a period of years, furnishing it with the magnificent collection of statuary and paintings offered in this sale. The Dowager nevertheless remained embittered by her lost inheritance and in a final flourish she constructed the castle around a tower with clocks on three sides only. By situating the wall without the clock facing the Sutherland lands, she made obvious to anyone passing by her claim that she would not give the family the time of day.
The castle and its collection were donated to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association by Captain Harold Salvesen in 1945, who had inherited from his father, Colonel Theodore Salvesen, Scots of Norwegian descent. During the Second World War the family gave refuge to King Haakon VII of Norway at Carbisdale, where, in 1941, the King signed an agreement with the Soviet Union that Russian troops would vacate Norway after they had liberated the country from Nazi forces.
From 1945 to 2010, this historic castle, said to be haunted, operated as a popular youth hostel, under the care of the SYHA.