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A bronze figure of an ecorche man, by Willem Danielsz. Van Tetrode (C. 1525-1580), circa 1562-67. Estimate $1,500,000 – $2,500,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

On a later rectangular oak plinth; 17 1/8 in. (43.5 cm.) high; 19 in. (48.2 cm.) high, overall

Provenance: Sotheby’s, New York, 22 January 2004, lot 160.

Literature: M. Schwartz, ed., European Sculpture from the Abbott Guggenheim Collection, New York, 2008, pp. 140-141, no. 72.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE: London, Hayward Gallery, Spectacular Bodies – The Art and Science of the Human Body from Leonardo to Now, 19 Oct. 2000 – 14 Jan. 2001, M. Kemp and M. Wallace eds.
Amsterdam and New York, Rijksmuseum and the Frick Collection, Willem van Tetrode, Sculptor (c.1525-1580), 7 Mar. – 7 September 2003, F. Scholten ed.
New York, The Frick Collection, European Bronzes from the Quentin Collection, 28 Sep. 2004 – 2 Jan. 2005, M. Leithe-Jasper and P. Wengraf eds., fig. 3, p. 236.

Exhibited: London, National Gallery, Rubens, A Master in the Making, Oct. 26, 2005 – Jan.15, 2006, D. Jaffe ed., p. 102, no. 34.

Notes: Willem Danielsz van Tetrode was a native of Delft but by 1548 he had moved to Florence where he is recorded in the workshop of Benvenuto Cellini. He would later move to Rome and Vasari tells us that he worked for Guglielmo della Porta, although no known work from this period survives. In circa 1558 he executed what was perhaps his first independent commission, an architectural cabinet adorned with numerous bronzes after antique subjects for Gianfrancesco Orsini, Count of Pitigliano. Known as the Pitigliano Cabinet, it was eventually presented as a gift to Cosimo I de’ Medici. The bronzes – which were separated from the cabinet but survive (apart from one) in the Bargello, Florence – serve as the touchstone for much of Tetrode’s early work.

The time Tetrode spent in the service of the Orsini was of enormous influence, and many of the sculptor’s bronzes are based on antique marbles in the Orsini collection. His experience of Rome and the restoration of antique statues under della Porta further strengthened his understanding of classical sculpture. When Tetrode returned to Delft in 1567, and later worked in Cologne, he was therefore of crucial importance in the transmission of contemporary Italian innovations in sculpture to the north (Willem van Tetrode, op. cit., p. 72).

The present bronze écorché is known in one other closely similar bronze example (private collection, New York), a variant bronze example (with bronze support; Palazzo Venezia, Rome, inv. no. PV 10822) and a variant lead example (formerly Castiglione Collection, now Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, inv. no. KK. 10141). The composition clearly enjoyed widespread popularity in the 17th century, and appears in paintings such as Berckheyde’s A Young Scholar in his Study (reproduced in European Bronzes, loc. cit.). When the New York bronze was included in the Hamburg exhibition Sechs Sammler stellen aus in 1961 (no. 69) it was attributed to Ludovico Cardi, known as Cigoli. However , when the same bronze was included in the London exhibition Spectacular Bodies (op. cit., no. 284. pp. 81 and 229) Wengraf identified the author as Tetrode, an attribution which has since been universally accepted.

The model has variously been described as an Anatomical Figure of a Falling Man and as a Horse Trainer. The latter title probably derives from the similarity between its pose and that of one of the Dioscuri, the antique marble groups on the Quirinal Hill in Rome. That the composition might be derived from the Dioscuri is not impossible as Tetrode had already copied them in bronze to adorn the Pitigliano Cabinet mentioned above. However, seeking to give ‘meaning’ to the present bronze figure through a title almost detracts from the fact that the bronze is quite simply a work of singular grace and originality. One can admire the luminous patina and the technical expertise of the cast, but this bronze, with its dance-like pose, is primarily the sculptor’s abstracted vision of the beauty of the human form.

Christie’s. THE ABBOTT GUGGENHEIM COLLECTION: A NEW YORK KUNSTKAMMER, 27 January 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.

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