2652 AR Bonhams Christ At The Column

A bronze figure of Christ at the column sold at Bonhams for £70,000.

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Offered at an estimate of £800-1200, on auction day it was fiercely fought over by two members of the trade, who competitively bid against each other on the phone.

With a lull at £30,000, it looked like the hammer was going to fall, but bidding started up again, pushing the final hammer up to an astonishing £70,000 (plus 28/27% buyer’s premium). Purchased by a leading UK dealer, the new owner stated he was ‘very pleased to own this magnificent bronze’.

This 16.5in (42cm) high cast of a semi-nude bearded figure modelled in contrapposto, hands tied behind to a column, was consigned by a private client via Bonhams Guildford office. In the 1970s the consignor had inherited a vast array of items from his uncle, who had derived great pleasure collecting indiscriminately from regional auction houses across the South of England in the post war period.

Academic debate

The bronze was initially catalogued as 18th century and probably Franco-Flemish, with the figure modelled after ‘Christ Bound’ by Francois Duquesnoy (1594-1643), the Flemish Baroque sculptor who spent much of his career in Rome. However, Michael Lake, head of works of art at Bonhams, revised the dating prior to the sale.

He told ATG that It was extremely well viewed by members of the public and trade and had created a large amount of academic debate prior to the sale. The general consensus seemed to be that it probably dated to around 1700. 

In terms of origin, again most thought it was Flemish, with another opinion citing it could be French, with a possible attribution to Louis Garnier. Significant differences to Duquesnoy’s ‘Christ Bound’ were noted: here the figure’s hands are tied behind the back rather than to the front and there are differences in both the drapery and the column. Unlike Italian bronzes which are more copper toned, the alloy visible to the base was more yellow.

Given the debate over this piece and conjecture prior to the sale, Lake decided it was pertinent to ‘let the market decide’. And the market decided this enigmatic piece was something special.

2652 AR Bonhams Christ At The Column Side View

A side view of the bronze figure of Christ at the column, sold at Bonhams on July 5 for £70,000.