Friday - 24 October 2014

Sculptor to the Medici emerges as the hand behind ‘German’ ewer

28 April 2014Written by Anne Crane

A very hefty price for a Baroque work of art emerged recently at the Drouot auction centre.

It appeared in a small, mixed-discipline sale held by Blanchet & Associés on April 16 and took the form of a pair of large, 2ft 5in (73cm) high, terracotta ewers deeply moulded in swirling baroque style with continuous marine-themed scenes featuring tritons and dolphins and rocailles. They had come from a private deceased estate.

Following specialist advice, these had been catalogued as German c.1800 and as a design for a ewer and given an estimate of €3000-5000. However, come the sale there was considerable interest, initially from several quarters but eventually from two phone bidders, and after a protracted battle, they ended up selling for no less than €820,000 (£713,305), €1,033,200 including the premium of 21.74%.

Post-sale a different attribution has emerged - to the Italian sculptor Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi (1656-1740). Soldani-Benzi, who worked for the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III, produced medals and bronzes, many of them now in museums. A bronze ewer by him to apparently the same design as one of Blanchet's pair - modelled with a figure of Neptune surrounded by conch-blowing tritons - is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

After his death some of his models were acquired by the Doccia factory and this ewer design was also recreated in porcelain.

The price is reckoned to be a new high for the sculptor, surpassing the premium-inclusive €247,000 paid for a bronze bust of a faun that was attributed to Soldani-Benzi at Christie's in Paris in June 2011.

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