Sculpture 34 Who sculpted this marble, presumably of Venus and Cupid?

WYR_CMBC_2017_192_001
Topic: Artist

Could we identify the sculptor and the original title of this piece, or at least re-name it Venus and Cupid?

There are no inscriptions.

Marion Richards, Art Detective Manager, Entry reviewed by Art UK

34 comments

Jacinto Regalado,

The title is obviously quite unsuitable and unrelated to what the artist meant to convey (and sell). Venus and Cupid is better, but a Venus should be more formidable or less slight and not so girlish, and a Cupid should have wings. Nymph and Putto, however, fits fairly well and is certainly unobjectionable.

Jacinto Regalado,

This looks like latter 19th century to early 20th century commercial decorative sculpture, quite possibly Italian, produced by a firm such as that of Pietro Bazzanti in Florence (opened in 1822 and still in business), which catered predominantly to foreign tourists (especially British and American).

The firm employed a number of sculptors of greater or lesser renown, specialising in decorative pieces such as this one and copies of famous works. Some examples:

http://www.artnet.com/artists/pietro-bazzanti/psyche-waking-the-sleeping-cupid-tmYr8uNqlsC34Fm5k-nsjA2

http://www.artnet.com/artists/pietro-bazzanti/a-nude-bathing-TD40PYT195ETHTtHfB2atA2

Kieran Owens,

Marion, the information panel states that the work was donated and that its Accession number 2017.192. Does this mean that it as donated in 2017? If not, does the Museum have any details of when it was donated? From this description it was not, presumably, once the property of Edward Ackroyd.

Barbara Pezzini 01,

Marion & all, this sculpture has been haunting me for *weeks* now and I am delighted to see that there is a discussion about it.

I must admit I haven't gone anywhere with this sculpture.

I agree with Jacinto that it is probably an Italian work of a Florentine workshop at the end of the 19th/early 20th century. The Romanelli family could be another name to add to the already-mentioned Bazzanti family, or perhaps around Ferdinando Vichi - ?

See: https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/19th-20th-century-sculpture-l17232/lot.48.html

https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/19th-20th-century-sculpture-l15230/lot.10.html

Regarding the subject my views is that this is not a Venus and Cupid but a very specific subject. Is she perhaps a nymph and is she discovering, finding this baby in a stream? A long shot - there is a nymph in some sculptural findings of Moses but no basket here so probably a very far-fetched hypothesis.

I have looked in my preferred repertories of 19th c. sculpture but got nowhere so far.

My hunch is that this is a very specific subject - if we identify the subject we will also find the artist.

Kieran Owens,

Given the body language of the two subjects, the well-known theme of "Venus chastising Cupid" could be considered. If only that putto had wings!

Meagan Blyth,

I agree with Jacinto's assertion that it is far closer to a nymph type than a Venus. The child's chubby face, and the pose of the woman suggest to me that a closer - not perfect - attribution would be closer to 'A wood nymph discovering a Putto' or just plainly 'A nymph discovering a putto'. It calls to mind this Jean Leon Gerome which features both winged and wingless putti: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/lot.72.html/2008/19th-century-european-art-including-the-orientalist-sale-n08431.

However I do have an alternate option I found through searching 'nymph with the infant-'. There seems to be a legend of Hermes giving the infant Dionysus to some mountain nymphs known as the nymphs of Nysa. There are unfortunately no indications that the child is Dionysus as I would like, but Benzoni's 'Young Dionyssus with a Nymph' is a similar sort of subject, located at the MFAH: https://www.mfah.org/art/detail/34877?returnUrl=/art/search?artist=Giovanni+Maria+Benzoni, and there is one of two Boucher examples of this subject here at Art UK: https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/mercury-confiding-the-infant-bacchus-to-the-nymphs-209514.

It's no perfect match but it's a close subject at the very least (and apologies if this formatting is poor - this is my first post!).

Jacinto Regalado,

I would favor some form of "Nymph and Putto," which is perfectly plausible, to taking the putto for the infant Bacchus, which is rather more speculative and cannot be substantiated (there are no grapes, vine leaves or drinking implements, for instance). Also, the infant here is a quite secondary or accessory element, almost incidental, which should not be the case if this were Bacchus and an attendant nymph.

Barbara Pezzini 01,

There is some iconography of Infant Bacchus and the nymph Ino, but as Jacinto says the block here is that there are no indication that the baby is Dyonisos/Bacchus, which is normally present, see:
http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/wyattrj/1.html.

I agree that Nymph and Putto is a correct description, but I think we could try to pinpoint this. Does anyone know if there are commercial catalogues of the Bazzanti/Romanelli workshops around?

I would like to thank the collection for their reply to a query about the accession number of this piece (Kieran Owens, 21/08/2019, 00:00).

The sculpture did belong to Edward Akroyd and, like most owners, he did not have a need to accession his possessions. As this piece was part of the permanent fixtures of the house, along with a few others when it became a museum in 1887, it was never added to the museum collection. In 2017 the collection gave accession numbers to several sculptures for ease of audit, reference and insurance valuations, and knowing the Art UK sculpture project was coming.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, many thanks for that clarification.

Jacinto Regalado,

I have seen comparable pieces titled "Psyche Awakening Cupid," with the Cupid as a child (though not necessarily an infant as here), but the problem remains that there are no wings in ours.

Jacinto Regalado,

So now we know the date is no later than 1886, the year Akroyd died.

Meagan Blyth,

I do also wonder if it is worth looking at other similar sculptures in the collection for clues, as there is a Niccolo Bazzanti and Romanelli also.

Jacinto Regalado,

There were multiple people working in the same vein during the same period, especially in Florence, where there was a significant tourist market. Pietro Bazzanti was an ornamental sculptor who founded the Bazzanti firm, and Niccolò (his son) was a sculptor with more academic training. The Bazzanti firm employed other sculptors like Cesare Lapini, Ferdinando Vichi and Guglielmo Pugi. Other such sculptors included several named Romanelli, apparently brothers or members of the same family, who may have had their own firm.

Here are some wingless Cupids in sculpture. The absence of wings is not a problem at least before 1800. What is the main argument for this not being a nymph and playful wingless Cupid? Is it the date?

A Roman version of a late-Hellenistic Eros:
https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/wingless-cupid/d51f894a-9dea-4258-b939-fb5f252c1b58

Marriage Feast of Cupid and Psyche, a 3rd C Roman sarchophagus:
https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=393039001&objectId=459993&partId=1

Bronze centaur and wingless Cupid, 18th C, after the Antique:
https://www.rct.uk/collection/35437/centaur-and-cupid

Jacinto Regalado,

Barring finding another example of this same statue with a more specific title, "Nymph and putto" is quite satisfactory and perfectly apt. It might have been intended as "Psyche and Cupid," but that remains speculative. As for authorship, again barring further evidence, Italian School (probably Florentine) is reasonable.

Martin Hopkinson,

This could be a reduced version of a larger piece of sculpture

Jacinto Regalado,

I rather doubt that, Martin. It certainly happened with famous sculptures, but this is not one. It is actually a fairly typical, not to say generic, decorative piece, and not an especially noteworthy one.

Jacinto Regalado,

It is also possible that this could be French, especially by one of the members of the Moreau family of decorative sculptors.

Jacinto Regalado,

Does the collection know whether Edward Akroyd, who presumably purchased this piece, visited Florence and/or Paris and when?

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a very long entry on Mathurin with an extensive bibliography in vol 90 of the De Gruyter, Kunstlerlexikon, 2016 , pp. 443 ff
He was something of a specialist of sculpture for fountains - and clearly worked on both a large and small scale, and was very prolific and successful. There is very little on his brother in this entry.
We are much indebted to Jacinto for finding them
This piece or a version of it may well have been exhibited in one of the Paris or French provincial Salons

Martin Hopkinson,

The Frick Collection's Art Reference Library has a collection of photographs and reproductions and other documentation of his work
There is a fountain by him in the Victoria Park, Ashford, Kent
No doubt there will be photos in the Conway Library, Courtauld Institute

Jacinto Regalado,

This is quite subjective, but the piece feels more French than Italian to me, though of course I could be wrong.

Martin Hopkinson,

Jacinto - your idea that it is by Mathurin Moreau is right

Jacinto Regalado,

Have you found confirmatory evidence, then, Martin?

Martin Hopkinson,

style - of course he must have had a large studio to produce so much work

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