In a week that saw the London salerooms offering their traditional December round of Old Master pictures, continental furniture and works of art, one of the strongest prices proved to be the £1m (plus premium) paid for this lively and intriguing 3ft (90cm) high bacchic bronze at Sotheby's on December 2.
At the auction, the bronze drew competition from the room and
the phones with the successful bid, which was double the
auctioneers' estimate, made by London dealer Patricia Wengraf
against a telephone underbidder.
Billed by the auctioneers as a new discovery, the piece had come
from Schloss Lieser, home of the Schorlemer family, who acquired
the castle in the wine-producing Mosel valley region in the 19th
The auctioneers ascribed the naked figure, which wears a
grimacing satyr's mask and holds a large bunch of grapes, to the
Netherlands and the late 16th or early 17th century, a point when
Northern Mannerist bronze casting was at its zenith.
But they did not feel able to go as far as a firm attribution to
sculptor, suggesting three possibilities: Adrien de Vries (whose
Juggling Man, now in the Getty Museum, they sold in 1989
for £6.2m); Willem van Tetrode and Hubert Gerhard.
Patricia Wengraf, who told ATG that she will be researching the
bronze, leans toward de Vries, citing similarities to figures of
Christ and Saint Sebastian in the Lichtenstein collection, but
added that "the iconography is more of a challenge".
There is evidence of an attachment to one of the hands, implying
the figure held something apart from the grapes, and there are
holes in the corner of the figure's downturned mouth, which have
led to the suggestion that it could have served as a fountain.
By Anne Crane
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