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Attributed to Domenico Cardelli (1767-1797), Italian, Rome, circa 1787. Bust of Prince Francis Xavier of Saxony (1730-1806). Estimate 50,000 — 80,000 GBP. Photo Sotheby’s.

marble; 75cm., 29½in.

PROVENANCE: possibly Prince Francis Xavier of Saxony, Dresden;
by descent to his daughter, Elisabeth Ursula Anna Cordula Xaveria of Saxony, the Duchess d’Esclignac;
by descent to her daughter, Baroness von Weissenbach;
by descent to her daughter, Countess von Korff Schmising Kerssenbrock;
by descent to her daughter, Baroness de Weichs de Wenne, Castle Geijsteren;
certainly thence by family descent;
on loan to Museum het Cuypershuis, Roermond, 1963 until 2014

EXHIBITED: Roermond, Museum het Cuypershuis, 1963 until 2014

NOTES: This exceptionally refined Neoclassical bust represents Prince Francis Xavier of Saxony. The identity of the sitter becomes clear when the bust is compared with Maurice Quentin de La Tour’s painting of the same subject in the Musée Antoine Lecuyer, Saint-Quentin. Like the present bust, in La Tour’s painting, Francis Xavier exhibits the same aquiline nose, strong brow and pursed lips.

Domenico Cardelli was a Roman sculptor who came to prominence through his relationship with the Polish royal court. In 1785, he carved a bust of Baroness Schütter, mistress of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, King of Poland (1732-1798), which led to a commission in 1786 for a bust of the King himself; in 1787 Cardelli was proclaimed court sculptor. Significantly, in 1794, Cardelli executed the tomb of Maria Chiara Spinucci (1741-1792), wife of Prince Francis Xavier of Saxony (1730-1806), the sitter of the present bust. The commission probably came through the family connection with Poland. Francis Xavier was the second son of Augustus III of Poland (1696-1763). In 1765, as regent to the infant Elector Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, Prince Francis Xavier had officially renounced his nephew’s claim to the Polish throne. He is therefore likely to have had a close relationship with Stanislaw August of Poland. The choice of Stanislaw August’s court sculptor as the artist responsible for his wife’s tomb, as well as the present bust, would therefore have been an obvious one.

Cardelli’s bust of Stanislaw August of Poland is known from an engraving in the British Museum, London, inscribed: Dom. Cardelli Marmore Sculpsit Romae / 1786 Raph. Morghen Sculpsit Romae, Joan. Volpato direxit (inv. no. 1843,0513.1112). The rigorous classicism of the bust, tempered by dramatic swags of drapes suspended from the sitter’s left shoulder, directly parallels the present bust. In both busts Cardelli presents the sitters in the guise of the victorious Roman general, but with contemporary 18th-century wigs. The high quality of the carving of the present bust is very close to one of Cardelli’s extant marbles, his bust of Countess Popiersie Marceliny Worcellowej in the National Scientific Library of Ukraine, Lviv. In the present sculpture, Cardelli surpasses himself with superb passages of carving in the hair. Note, in particular, the charming detail of the little earrings worn by the prince.

Sotheby’s. Of Royal and Noble Descent, London, 24 Feb 2015, 10:30 AM