Sculpture 29 Who sculpted this bronze 'African Group'?

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Topic: Artist

Image 4 of this artwork on Art UK shows that it's signed on the back. From the version on the site, the signature is something like:

A. P u j n?
BRUXELLES

I imagine it's a Belgian sculptor, probably 20th century? Can anyone suggest who it might be?

A close-up of the inscription is attached.

Andrew Shore, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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29 comments

Jacinto Regalado,

The surname looks like either Puga or Pugas to me.

Martin Hopkinson,

The curator of modern sculpture at the Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts en Belgique in Brussels will know who did this

AACB - Archives d'Art contemporain en Belgique
also covers this period
It would be fastest to send an image to both these

Jacinto Regalado,

The subject matter could be a genre scene of men around a cooking fire or, perhaps, a religious ritual scene.

Martin Hopkinson,

Could this read A Puy f [for fecit]?
Puy is quite a common surname

E Jones,

Could the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium have an idea as to the sculpturer, given the subject of the sculpture and connection to Belgium?
They have now reopened after their refit.

https://www.africamuseum.be/en

Also, as odd as it sounds, could the letters at the end of the signature, just a monogram of AP?

Mark Wilson 01,

Could the signature possibly be A Pugh? Though with the H so stylised as to be almost unrecognisable. It does seem to be a proper signature though with a downward diagonal at the end.

There also seems to be a faint stamp in a cartouche shape just above the A, but I can't read it.

I don't think this is a scene of cookery or ritual, I think this is about metallurgy, possibly the smelting of copper. The man kneeling on the left appears to be working some sort of bellows linked to the central vessel (this is clearest in picture 7) and the handle of the vessel held by the man kneeling at the rear looks like the sort you see on those used for pouring molten metal.

What is more the collection record at Aberdeen:

http://www.aagm.co.uk/theCollections/objects/object/African-Group

tells us that it was "Bequeathed in 1946 by Sir Robert Williams". This must be Sir Robert Williams:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Robert_Williams,_1st_Baronet,_of_Park

"who was chiefly responsible for the discovery of the vast copper deposits in Katanga Province (now incorporated in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)". So the topic would be of interest to him. And as someone active in Central Africa before and after WWI, he had close links to Belgium and received various honours from the country.

He actually died in 1938, no doubt WWII delayed the sorting out of the estate and the piece must date before that. The dimensions by the way are: Height: 38 cm, Width: 37 cm, Depth: 25 cm

Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums,

Many thanks for all your helpful guidance and insightful comments in trying to establish the identification of who created this sculpture. We will make a note of your comments and suggestions in the entry for this object in our database for further research. Thank you so much for your time and interest in our collection. We are very grateful for the directions you have given us with your expertise in the subject matter.

With warm wishes,

Griffin Coe
(Curator, Fine Art)
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections

Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums,

Dear Martin,

The transcript of the signature on our database states: "A. Pu. Yr Bruxelles". It is very difficult to tell from the close up detail on the image whether it looks more like 'A' rather than 'r'. Hopefully, we would be able to trace the identity of the sculptor by following the contact and information that you and others have kindly suggested on this forum. Many thanks once again.

Best wishes,

Griffin

Mark Wilson 01,

Griffin - the excellent quality of the images from Aberdeen means that it is possible to zoom in really closely on the signature. I don't think that final letter is an A because a capital letter would make no sense there on its own. But I wonder if it might be a 'k' which you sometimes see written like that in early 20th century hand.

Both Puyk and Puijk are valid, if not common Dutch surnames (ij/y seem interchangeable in Dutch) and either would fit the signature.

I can't find any sculptor with that name however, the nearest would be Pieter Puijpe or Puype who has roughly the right dates (1874-1942) but I'm not sure that the signature can be stretched to that and the initial doesn't match. It also doesn't look much like what I can see of his style.

Ronan Bergin,

I wonder if the 'A. Pu' is seperate from what follows. As Griffin says above, their database has it as 'A. Pu.' etc. Could it be Auguste Puttemans (1866-1922/27*)? Perhaps the letters after are actually a year. He was Belgian and some of his work can be seen here:

http://www.artnet.com/artists/auguste-puttemans/

A few close ups of his signature:

https://image.invaluable.com/housePhotos/DVC/16/614116/H4891-L128663999.jpg

https://image.invaluable.com/housePhotos/alderfer/92/646292/H0067-L172721150.jpg

https://images1.bonhams.com/image?src=Images/live/2013-10/23/8833903-7-1.jpg

https://portal-images.azureedge.net/auctions-2019/drewea1-10132/images/fc9ad866-32f8-4122-9ec7-aaf100c6234b.jpg?w=540&h=360&mode=max


Could there also be a stylistic flourish on the x of 'Bruxelles' which may be confusing things with the last letter/number of what's written above it? As in, the diagonal of the letter 'x' has been elongated upwards.


This signature might be doing something similar:

https://a.1stdibscdn.com/archivesE/upload/9310/05_15/puttemans_art_deco_male_nude9/Puttemans_Art_Deco_male_nude9_l.jpeg?disable=upscale&auto=webp&quality=60&width=960

which is from here:

https://www.1stdibs.co.uk/furniture/decorative-objects/sculptures/bronze-sculpture-male-nude-torch-puttemans-belgium-1912/id-f_1743092/

*both dates appear on the limited information about him

Jacinto Regalado,

It is definitely not the same signature as ours, and the style is more Art Nouveau to early Art Deco--ours is rougher and coarser.

Jacinto Regalado,

I meant to say that Puttemans seems more decorative to me.

I think you've cracked it, Andrea. This article, of which only a snippet is available, might be relevant given the African context:
L'Art moderne - Volume 32 - Page 172
... Fonderie de cuivre au Katanga, œuvre d'un sculpteur brugeois, M. Arthur Puyt. Le Bureau permanent des Amis de l'Art wallon, présidé par M. Jules Destrée, a obtenu une audience particulière de M. Carton deWiart, ministre de la Justice.

Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums,

Hello and good morning.

Many thanks for your further feedback and insightful comments. I am very grateful for your enthusiasm and expertise in trying to identify this unknown sculptor.

Further evidence from Andrea Kollmann and Barbara Bryant looks very promising indeed. We will make sure to note your suggestion and also, we will double check our old accession registration book after the lockdown period to make sure there is no other detail in this object history. We will change the name to Arthur Puyt in our record once we follow all of these steps.

In the meantime, thank you so much once again for your time and generosity in sharing your knowledge. All the comments and discussions in this forum has significantly enhanced our understanding and appreciation of this sculpture.

With warm wishes,

Griffin Coe
(Curator, Fine Art)

Andrea Kollmann,

Here is a link to the L'Art Moderne entry about Arthur Puyt that Barbara found (its on page 181 of the pdf): http://digistore.bib.ulb.ac.be/2013/ELB-ULB-DL2864764-1912-f.pdf

[...] D’autre part, le Département des Colonies vient
d’acquérir, pour le Musée de Tervueren, un groupe en plâtre
bronzé : Une Fonderie de cuivre au Katanga, œuvre d’un sculpteur
brugeois, M. Arthur Puyt.

Mark Wilson 01,

Congratulations to Andrea and Barbara, not only do we have the sculptor we were looking for but even a title for the piece. Presumably the Africa Museum in Tervuren still has the original bronzed plaster. It would be interesting to know how many bronze casts were made and who else they went to.

Many thanks for all the suggestions made about this interesting piece. It's very satisfying to tie up a highly likely signature and style with the entry in L'Art moderne.

Griffin, Thank you for your replies. It's great to know a collection is watching and taking part, as so much effort goes into these discussions. I'll update Art UK in due course once we have all the information we can gather and the Group Leader for Sculpture has concluded this by recommending the changes to Art UK.

A mysterious subject and an initially indecipherable signature was quickly solved, after a number of false starts, by Andrea Kollmann and Barbara Bryant, for which many thanks. The work can now be firmly attributed with a definitive title:

Arthur Puyt of Bruges (1873–1955)
A Copper Foundry, Katanga, 1912
Cast: Brussels. Bronze; overall: 38x37x25 cms
Bequeathed by Sir Robert Williams (1860–1938); accessioned 1946.

Thank you, Ronan Bergin, for acquainting us all with the slightly older Auguste Puttemans (1866–1922/7) as a possible contender, whose work is more in the stylistic vein of the New Sculpture. Jacinto Regalado gave us a lead on the subject matter, but it turned out from its title that Mark Wilson was spot on here. Mark Wilson was also able to give us more detail from the Aberdeen Art Galleries Register as to its measurements and its provenance.

The deciding evidence reads:

Le Département des Colonies vient d’acquérir, pour le Musée de Tervueren, un groupe en plâtre bronzé : Une Fonderie de cuivre au Katanga, œuvre d’un sculpteur brugeois, M. Arthur Puyt.

From: L’ART MODERNE, REVUE CRITIQUE HEBDOMADAIRE BUREAUX: RUE DE L’INDUSTRIE, 32 , BRUXELLES; Trente-deuxième année. N ° 22. 2 Juin 1912, p. 172; http://digistore.bib.ulb.ac.be/2013/ELB-ULB-DL2864764-1912-f.pdf; accessed 27.06.20.

This too supports Martin Hopkinson’s useful interventions for possible institutions in Belgium, for which Art UK in its pursuit of useful contacts, is most grateful.

Thank you all for a neat solution to this case.

Katharine Eustace
Moderator, Sculpture, Art Detective, Art UK

E Jones,

Wondered if this little bit of additional information may be of use before the thread is closed.

It looks like Arthur Puyt appears to change the format that he uses to sign much of his work. He occassionally signs as “At. Puyt” as well as using the monogram “AP” on some of his smaller pieces.
(Att1)

The work of Arthur Puyt is also mentioned in an edition of the publication ‘Bruxelles Patrimonies’ as published by ‘Bruxelles Urbanisme et Patrimoine’,
no. 11/12 - Journees du Patrimoine, Region du Bruxelles du Capitale
written by the Art Historian Marcel M. Celis. 2014.

”...après sa formation à l’académie des Beaux-arts, Puyt s’est établi à forest. son œuvre se caracté- rise par de petites sculptures, trois mémoriaux de la Première guerre mondiale et une poignée de sépultu- res réparties sur la région bruxel- loise, pour la plupart des variantes du petit monument Bellot.“

I believe it mentions that Puyt trained at “l’académie des Beaux-arts”. After he left the Academy, he established himself in Forest. (Forest is a municipality, which is in the Brussels-Capital region of Belgium). He worked on small sculptures, memorials/graves in the Brussels region as well as three WW1 memorials.

The ‘monument Bellot’ as mentioned, was the gravestone of a young child that was tragically killed in 1907. Puyt’s metalwork on the grave has since disappeared.

Puyt also produced medallions as the artist/ sculpturer as well as working with other artists. A number of examples can be seen in the collection of the ‘KBR’ formerly the ‘Royal Library of Belgium’

https://belgica.kbr.be/BELGICA/search.aspx?SC=GALERIE&QUERY=Author_id_exact:"10038274"&QUERY_LABEL=Recherche+sur+Puyt,+Arthur+{LPARENTHESES} 1873-1955).+Artist#/Search/(query:(InitialSearch:!t,Page:0,PageRange:3,QueryString:'Author_id_exact:"10038274"',ResultSize:-1,ScenarioCode:GALERIE,SearchContext:0,SearchLabel:'Recherche sur Puyt, Arthur (1873-1955). Artist'))

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E Jones,

Am afraid the link doesn’t seem to want to open the selection in the KBR. If you type ‘Arthur Puyt’ into the search bar, then a number of examples will be found.

E Jones,

Into the searchbar of the KBR, that does appear through the link above.

Maria Nicolette ALEXANDROU,

Hi there, I hope you do not mind me commenting, I am new here. This is definitely the work of Arthur Puyt (1873-1955), many of his bronze sculptures with images of his works and signature can be found online.

The image I attach below is of a bronze sculpture of a panther and it has the same signature.

Thanks for having me here. Many kind regards,

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