Tuesday - 30 September 2014

Rare Italian Symbolist relief takes £50,000

16 August 2012Written by Jonathan Franks

A marble relief, executed by the Italian Symbolist Adolfo Wildt (1868-1931), turned out to be the high point at an auction held this summer by Geble in Germany.

Wildt was born in Milan and learnt the art of sculpture from Giuseppe Grandi (1843-94) and Federico Villa. In the early years of his career he profited from the patronage of the German collector Franz Rose, who received a copy of all Wildt's works in exchange for an annual allowance. During this period he developed his distinctive, often disconcerting Symbolist style.

After Rose's death in 1912, the artist was forced to fend for himself on the open market, which he managed with success. In the 1910s and 1920's he received numerous accolades.

A round relief, mounted on a 16 x 16in (40 x 40cm) piece of onyx, was created in 1927 as a Medaglia per il concorso del piano regolatore di Milano  (Medal for the Competition for the Urban Building Plan for Milan). It is one of two known examples and came from a private collection.

At the auction in Radolfzell on the shores of Lake Constance on June 23, eight telephone bidders, mostly Italian dealers, did battle with a foreign private collector and pushed the price from the reserve of €28,000 to a highly respectable €68,000 (£53,460), with the collector claiming victory.

On the international market Wildt's religious subjects are even more in demand.

A 20in (50cm) high bust of Francis of Assisi from 1926 sold at Christie's in London in March 2009 for £140,000, three and a half times the lower estimate, and in May 2008 the relief Cristo del Sepolcro was knocked down at Sotheby's for a mid-estimate £130,000.

The buyer's premium was 18%

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