Scotland: Artists and Subjects, Sculpture 33 Who sculpted this bronze nude with a serpent?

EDI_CITY_CAC4_1976_001
Topic: Subject or sitter

I expect that this is a depiction of Eve. Can anyone identify the sculptor of this nineteenth-century bronze at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh? There is no record of a signature.

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

33 comments

Jacinto Regalado,

This may certainly be latter 19th century, but it could also be early 20th. It has something of an Art Nouveau feel.

Kieran Owens,

The attached is a news report from the Aberdeen Evening Express of Thursday 18th December 1975. It is a poignant reminder of the extraordinary range of reasons as to why and how certain artworks end up in public collections. It is extremely appropriate that his generosity should be recorded and remembered on the ArtUK site. Researchers with access to the probate records in Scotland might be able to find his will and any associated inventory of bronzes as listed therein.

Stewart's interest in art and sculpture must have been a life-long one as he is recorded has having lent a work entitled 'Zongleuse pyramid' by Demetre Chiparus, to the 1930 Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

He also owned a copy of Sir Edgar Bertram MacKennal's 'Circe' (or 'Kipkh', as per its Greek spelling on the ArtUK site) (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1894) and his 'Truth'. Both works, as bequeathed by Stewart, can be seen on ArtUK here:

https://bit.ly/2ABKenR

https://bit.ly/2OiIfgk

Both of these pieces were also loaned for exhibition by Stewart as early as 1925.

Edgar Bertram MacKennal should be considered as he sculpted many allegorical and classical-themed pieces, especially in this format. A trawl of the RA's records will be undertaken for contending titles.



Jacinto Regalado,

I saw those two pieces by MacKennal and considered him as a possibility, especially since they are in the same collection and came from the same source as our (purported) Eve, but they struck me as stiffer, harsher, more impersonal and academic, and less graceful, less natural. He bears further consideration, but I have my doubts.

Alison Golding,

I would have associated a snake at the bosom with images of Cleopatra rather than Eve. Is this lady waiting for the snake to speak or strike?

Jacinto Regalado,

The woman may be in conversation with the serpent, and almost looks as if she's playing with it, which would fit Eve but not Cleopatra. Also, the latter is much less likely to be portrayed fully nude at the time of her suicide, and that is virtually never the case in paintings of the subject. Eve, however, is virtually always portrayed nude when "conversing" with the serpent.

Peter Nahum,

Mackennal first came to my mind, but I rejected him as the cast is not precise enough - I came across Anne Acheson (1882–1962) and thought it may be by her - but cannot find a similar image. She would be worth checking out. We will all have to keep thinking.

Kieran Owens,

Of the 71 pieces that MacKennal exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1896 and 1929 none is titled as to suggest a connection with this subject.

Jacinto Regalado,

We need more visual data regarding the work of Ottilie Wallace, who was both Scottish (Edinburgh) and trained in Paris. However, if her work is largely in private (and presumably Scottish) hands, this may have to be a job for someone in Scotland.

JAN MARSH,

could be a version of the Cadmus and Harmonia story from Ovid where Cadmus asked the gods to turn him into a snake, and as he embraced his wife Harmonia she too was transformed. see eg Evelyn de Morgan's Harmonia

1 attachment
Jacinto Regalado,

I was unaware of that myth, Jan, but it would fit here and must be considered. I wonder if this myth is more appealing to female artists, since some female sculptors are under consideration.

Kieran Owens,

Ouch, forgive me Jan, I had not seen your attachment!

Jacinto Regalado,

For what it's worth, Ottilie Wallace is known to have made a sculpture of Asteria, another relatively obscure mythological female figure. There must be someone in Scotland who knows more about her oeuvre.

Jacinto Regalado,

Ottilie Wallace is briefly mentioned in an article about the 2015-16 show "Modern Scottish Women," curated by Alice Strang for the National Galleries of Scotland:

https://bit.ly/3muvq07

I suppose Strang might be interested in this discussion.

Also, does the collection have any potentially relevant information about the donor, Edgar Stewart of Kirkcaldy?

Jacinto Regalado,

Thanks, Kieran. Unfortunately, it does not help much, except that he lived near Edinburgh and worked there, which may go with an Edinburgh-based sculptor.

The curator of the City Art Centre will check their records and the sculpture itself when she can get into the building, which is on occasional days. It may be a week or two, but this query has been added to her list and we will be updated when it has been checked - they would be delighted to get an attribution for this sculpture.

There are links below to two remarkable French sculpture resources. Those already interested in this subject will need no introduction to the work of Laure de Margerie and Laurent Noët. Aside from containing thousands of documented images of French sculpture and detailed threads of research on individual sculptors and their work, these websites contain an astonishing number of resources, including publications, exhibitions, a glossary, and information about the practice and techniques of sculpture in France.

The French Sculpture Census, initiated and directed by Laure de Margerie, who was senior archivist and Head of the Sculpture Archives at the Musee d'Orsay (1978–2009). https://frenchsculpture.org/

The blog of Laurent Noët, author and historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century sculpture in Marseille. http://marseillesculptee2.blogspot.com/

I’m very grateful to Linda Whiteley, Faculty Member and research associate of the Department of the History of Art at Oxford, for putting me in touch with Laure de Margerie following the recent closure of the discussion on Gertrude Devenish Walshe. Laure has very kindly sent us the page from Pierre Sanchez’s 2010 dictionary, which confirms the attribution and offers further leads to the sitter that are being followed up in France.

Immense thanks to all followers of Art Detective for all the contributions and successful outcomes, especially in 2020, with so many resources now inaccessible.

Jacinto Regalado,

Marion, are we missing a link you meant to provide?

Jacinto Regalado,

Sorry, Marion, perhaps I misunderstood or I am being rather dense, but I cannot find "the page from Pierre Sanchez’s 2010 dictionary, which confirms the attribution and offers further leads to the sitter that are being followed up in France."

Jacinto, it makes no sense to attach the page about the Devenish Walshe exhibit to this thread, where it would be lost to future research, but I wanted to let you all know that I have it so that no one else keeps looking.

It will be available in an appropriate place on the website as soon as possible, whether that's a new discussion about the sitter in 'Lilas blanc' (which we now know it is) or simply an edited conclusion to the existing discussion.

I'd like to thank Dr Helen Scott, Curator (Fine Art) at the collection for checking the sculpture and their files.

There was no visible foundry mark. It's possible that the mark is underneath the base, but the sculpture is very firmly affixed to the marble plinth, with no easy way of detaching it.

In the records, the only relevant item found was correspondence from 1975 in which the then curator wrote to the director recommending the acquisition of the sculpture into the collection, after it was offered as part of a bequest from Edgar Stewart, a resident of Kirkcaldy. Four bronze sculptures were accepted from this bequest, including two by Bertram Mackennal and one by Pilkington Jackson. However, the nude with a serpent was listed at this point as being by an unknown artist.

It is very helpful that those avenues have now been checked.

Jacinto Regalado,

Bertram Mackennal exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1886 to 1904, including three bronze statuettes like ours:

A priestess (1896, No. 1870)

Daphne (1897, No. 2039)

Salome (1897, No. 2053)

Ours is not Apollo's Daphne or Salome, and a priestess seems unlikely to be fully nude. None of his other RA works fit ours.

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