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A gilt bronze figure of Hercules, North European, possibly late 16th-early 17th century. Estimate $10,000 – $20,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2015

The young Hercules depicted standing with his right fist clenched behind his back, while holding his club over his left shoulder and gazing to his left; on an integrally cast oval plinth;8½ in. (21.5 cm.) high

Provenance: Dr. A. von Frey, Berlin.
Camillo Castiglione, Vienna, no. 32.
Property of a Gentleman, sold Christie’s, London, 4 July 1989, lot 128 (£85,000).
Property of a Gentleman, sold Christie’s, New York, 26 October 2001, lot 370 ($47,000, including premium).
Private Collection.

Literature: L. Planiscig, Venezianische Bildhauer der Renaissance, Vienna, 1921, pp. 297-300, figs 306-309.
id., Collezione Camillo Castiglioni, Catalogo dei Bronzi: Con Introduzione e Note Descrittive di Leo Planiscig, Vienna, 1923, no. 32.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE: C. Avery, La Spezia, Museo Civico Amedeo Lia – Sculture, Bronzetti, Placchetti, Medaglie, La Spezia, 1998, no. 97.

Notes: When the present bronze figure was discussed by Leo Planiscig in his landmark study of Venetian bronzes (loc. cit.) it was attributed to Francesco da Sant’Agata on the basis of stylistic comparisons with the signed boxwood figure (S273) in the Wallace Collection thought to have been executed in 1522. Since that time, it has been recognized as one of a group of small bronzes attributable to a single artist who has thus far defied a firm attribution, but who was most recently given the name ‘The Master of the Fitzwilliam Museum’ by Charles Avery (loc. cit.). Most of the bronzes are of secular subjects and a large proportion of them are gilded, as in the present case. They all display a goldsmith-like attention to detail, as is evident here in the details of the hair, the facial features and the punching of the club and base. The Seated Hercules, in the Quentin Collection, illustrates most of the same similarities in the modeling and finished details as the present bronze (M. Leithe-Jasper and P. Wengraf, European Bronzes from the Quentin Collection, exh. cat., The Frick Collection, 28 September, 2004-2 January, 2005, no. 26, pp. 246-251).

Several bronzes by this master have appeared on the international market in the past decade; they include a seated Bacchus (Sotheby’s, 9 December 1993, lot 106, sold £95,000), another version of the present model (Christie’s, 15 December, 1998, lot 130, sold £100,000), and two versions of a Seated Hercules (Christie’s, 2 July 1996, lot 171, sold £45,000 and 6 July 1999, lot 81, sold £120,000 [the Quentin bronze mentioned above]).

Christie’s. OLD MASTER PAINTINGS & SCULPTURE PART II, 29 January 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

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