Photo credit: Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
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.
This discussion is now closed. The sculptor has been identified as Affortunato Gori (Fortunato Gory) (before 1886–1925). This is his only known work in a British public collection. A biography of the artist has been produced for Art UK. The title has been updated from ‘Female Figure Dropping a Baby’ to ‘A Nymph Discovering an Infant’ and the sculpture has been dated c.1885–1886.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
Lol. Horrible title as listed!
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.
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:
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.
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 - ?
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.
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!
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!).
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.
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:
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.
Marion, many thanks for that clarification.
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.
So now we know the date is no later than 1886, the year Akroyd died.
Here's an example of what I mentioned above:
Psyche and Cupid by Fortunato Galli (1850-1918), a Florentine decorative sculptor (who may have worked for the Bazzanti firm):
Would not this other Bazzanti be comparable as well? https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/CUPID-WITH-A-NYMPH/CB904ABBFCEDFEA3
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.
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's a Nymph and Cupid (1892) by Cesare Lapini:
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:
Marriage Feast of Cupid and Psyche, a 3rd C Roman sarchophagus:
Bronze centaur and wingless Cupid, 18th C, after the Antique:
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.
As it's Friday, some relevant light relief from the art-historical effort:
This could be a reduced version of a larger piece of sculpture
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.
It is also possible that this could be French, especially by one of the members of the Moreau family of decorative sculptors.
Here are two pieces comparable to ours by two of the Moreau brothers:
Does the collection know whether Edward Akroyd, who presumably purchased this piece, visited Florence and/or Paris and when?
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
The livrets of the Paris Salons are online at Gallica.
The Archives Nationales Base Arcade has contemporary photographs of paintings and sculptures exhibited at the Salons 1864–1901. Click on the blue text icon to get the record and the images (the eye icon is just the images).
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
This is quite subjective, but the piece feels more French than Italian to me, though of course I could be wrong.
Jacinto - your idea that it is by Mathurin Moreau is right
Have you found confirmatory evidence, then, Martin?
style - of course he must have had a large studio to produce so much work
The Bankfield collection (as it appears on Art UK) is largely if not entirely sculptures. It includes several 19th century Italian marbles, and the museum building, the former mansion of Edward Akroyd, was refashioned by him in Italianate style. Perhaps the biography of him published by the Halifax Antiquarian Society in 1987 may contain relevant information about his artistic tastes as well as possible travel abroad (such as to Florence, for instance).
While I vacillate between Italian and French authorship for this piece, it is probably more likely to be Italian. At the least, a better title can be given to the work as discussed above.
Perhaps Group Leader Katharine Eustace can look over this discussion and make suggestions as to going forward.
A Meissen version of the same subject:
There is also a 2019 biography of Akroyd by Roy Ellwood. Presumably the collection has access to one or both biographies, in which case it might be able to check for relevant information.
At least two other sculptures at Bankfield, by Bazzanti and Romanelli, are 19th century Florentine works.
Jacinto Regalado has appealed to me to suggest a way forward for this discussion. It seems that all contributors feel the current title inadequate, even ‘horrible’ ! I suggest that Calderdale MBC, Bankfield Museum, rename it. It is clearly not a Venus and Cupid in any strictly iconographical sense. It might be Io and the Infant Bacchus or Dionysus. Io was the sister of Semele, mother of the semi-divine Bacchus by Zeus. Semele had been destroyed by Zeus, and Bacchus was brought up by Io and the old Satyr Silenus. However, Io is most often associated with the sea. I suggest here we have a Naiad, a nymph of the woods and streams. and its title might more properly be ‘A Nymph or Naiad with the Infant Bacchus’.
It is difficult to tell from the photographs, but what appear to be pricket stumps on the nymph’s forehead may be where flowers had been attached, or perhaps leaves, ivy is also associated with Bacchus, that have snapped off, just as the little finger of the right hand has been damaged. They may be a pair of horns which would associate her with Baccus’s woodland companion fauns and satyrs. In the great classical figure Silenus and the Infant Bacchus (Louvre, ex Borghese collection), the old man cradling the infant wears a wreath of ivy in which prominently on his brow are two clumps of ivy berries. These could be misread in after-casts as satyr’s horns. The ‘bocage’ traditionally used in ceramics, is here both modesty preserving and a structural support for the slight figure, and there is in the nymph’s gesture of surprise, the possible suggestion of the infant being discovered by a stream, a parallel with the finding of Moses as suggested by Barbara Pezzini.
As Jacinto has rightly pointed out, the work appears to be late nineteenth century, French or Italian virtuoso carving for the commercial market, the subject matter lends its self to the sensibilities and taste of the period, and we have seen many comparable examples of the type.
If people wish to continue the discussion and track down its source there are two possibilities. One is for someone, as suggested by Jacinto, to check a copy of Edward Akroyd’s biography by Roy Ellwood which may provide further clues. The other, noting that there are other works by Bazzanti and Romanelli in Akroyd’s collection, is to find their sale catalogues if they exist, or to pursue the idea supported by Martin Hopkins that the work might be by one of the Moreau brothers, and Marion has provided links to exhibition possibilities.
Thank you, Katharine. As noted, it is ultimately up to the collection to decide, but barring more definitive evidence, I would suggest a title of "Nymph and Putto," or perhaps "Nymph Discovering Infant," as opposed to something more specific. This was probably intended as a purely decorative piece, the subject of which was either always generic or of no great significance, meaning quite secondary.
I tend to doubt we will get much further with this, unless there were to be relevant Italian or French input. I think the French were more prone to produce such figures in bronze or bronze-like material, and the Italians were more prone to use marble, so overall I favor this is Italian and latter 19th century.
Here’s some good news. I’ve discovered a sculpture that looks very similar/identical to this one on the Invaluable website. It was sold by an auction house in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, on June 19, 2021. The title was “Venus et jeune fille”. https://tinyurl.com/uvxyew4n
The description states:
“Affortunato GORY (act.1895-1925) dit Fortunato GORI Venus et jeune fille, vers 1900 Marbre blanc sculpté, signé A. Gory Paris Haut. 80 cm (un doigt recollé, manque un bout de doigt à la fillette)”.
I have attached a composite.
Well done, Marcie. The height is the same as ours. I found some biographical information on him, which goes into his use of different variants of both his given name and surname:
I suspect, however, that the title of the work in the Invaluable listing may have been arbitrarily assigned by the seller, or that is certainly possible. Images 5 and 6 in the Art UK entry appear to be consistent with the infant being a female.
The artist's name should be given as:
Fortunato Gori (also known as Affortunato Gory)
He was apparently prolific, given the number of works one can find by him online. Although he was no doubt influenced by French decorative sculpture and eventually took up Art Deco, his earlier work in marble (such as ours) is very much in a latter 19th century Florentine vein.
Perhaps Katharine Eustace can comment on the new findings.
This source says Gori/Gory died in 1925:
Here is the entry for Affortunato Gori in the 1912 Salon. https://tinyurl.com/25hen2su. I have attached the cover page and the page that shows his name.
This work on the Skinner auction site shows the date 1895. https://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2631B/lots/757
I have not been able to find him on Ancestry.
Practically all online sources I have seen say he was active 1895-1925, with one source saying he died in Paris in 1925. His year of birth would probably require searching Italian records, particularly in Florence.
The question of authorship has been answered, so what remains is deciding upon a suitable title. I would suggest "Nymph and Infant" or "Nymph Discovering Infant," and giving the artist as:
Fortunato Gori (also known as Affortunato Gory), active 1895-1925
For the record, his name was Affortunato Gory in the catalogue for the 1905 Salon. https://tinyurl.com/3s84xfnz.
Would it not make sense to use a translation of the title “Venus et jeune fille”?
It would be good to have Katharine Eustace's input on this discussion, as it would appear it could now be closed.
It seems clear that Gori/Gory used different versions of his name and surname, so both should be given, certainly for search purposes. As for the title, as I previously commented, the one given in the Invaluable listing could have been arbitrarily assigned by the auction house (meaning we have no exhibition catalogue entry for it and the title is not inscribed on the work itself). Naturally, it is up to the collection to approve the title it prefers.
The direct link to the June sale is https://bit.ly/3ymO94Q but it doesn't give any more info than the copy on Invaluable (nor does the e-catalogue). If that version is so clearly signed, it seems odd that the Calderdale isn't (bottom of the base?).
Artnet says about Gory:
"Affortunato Gory (Gori) was a French-Italian artist who specialized in Art Deco figurative sculpture, often combining materials such as bronze, ivory, and marble to dazzling effect. Born in 1895 in Florence, Italy, Gory emigrated to France after studying with noted sculptor Augusto Rivalta at the Accademia di Belle Arti in his home city. He continued to practice and learn from the French artist Victorien-Antoine Bastet after his move to Paris, and exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français on multiple occasions. Little else is known about the artist, who died in 1925."
(though 1895 is clearly his fl. date as per the Skinner sale) and then goes on to list no less than 404 results for him plus another 12 for Fortunato Gori. Some may be re-sales and there are clearly more than one copy (probably numerous) of some works, but it's still a prodigious output.
The balance of results suggests that Affortunato Gory should be the primary name here, with Gori secondary. There are numerous different names for the same works in the auction listings, so unless there is a Salon (or similar) catalogue, any title is going to be arbitrary. I rather like Calderdale's current one, but I can see why others might prefer something more dignified and less, er, gory. His figures are more types than specifically mythological though, so I don't think assigning the lady as Venus can be justified.
I agree that Venus is too specific, but this is not an ordinary/mortal young woman, who would not be walking about nude. Nymph is a type, and it works perfectly well in this case. The infant is not Cupid and it may well be female, but infant is quite adequate. I expect that the artist's original surname was Gori (I have found two other 19th century Tuscan sculptors named that) , but be that as it may, both variants of the first name and surname must be given for search purposes. The 1895 is clearly not the year of birth but rather the first year of known activity.
Here is his Echo (another nymph):
Yet another nymph:
This discussion has established that the figure group in question was in the collection of the textile manufacturer and philanthropist, Col. Edward Akroyd (1810–1887) MP, and part of the foundation collection in the house he aggrandised in an Italianate style at Haley Hill, Halifax, and eventually, after the death of his wife, presented to the citizens of Halifax in 1886.
Further, in answer to one of the original questions, thanks to Marcie Doran’s brilliant sleuthing and citation of a French saleroom catalogue, the sculptor has been identified as the Florentine, Affortunato Gori or Fortunato Gory (pre-1886–1925). We should note that the saleroom version is signed, as seems the sculptor’s custom. Interestingly, though clearly based on the same model, there are a number of very small differences of detail between the two versions.
Pieter Van de Merwe gives us one of his excellent summations of the artist’s career:
‘A skilled and prolific Italian sculptor of decorative female figures and heads in marble, alabaster and ivory. He was born in Florence and began his training at the Academy there under Auguste Rivalta, continuing in Paris as a pupil of Victorien-Antoine Bastet after moving there by about 1900. He first exhibited at the Salon in 1902 and subsequent appearances have been noted in 1904, 1905 (from 3 Rue Bourg-l’Abbe), 1912 (51, Avenue de la Republique), 1914 and 1923. Gori’s early work was in decorative neo-classical Italian manner, notably small-scale nudes, of which he made large numbers and often close replicas. He later turned to Art Nouveau, in which he produced more life-size idealized female busts, with the marble or alabaster heads often dramatically set in or overlaid with bronze for the drapery and head-dresses. He died in Paris in 1925.’
Thank you, Pieter.
This leaves the question of the offending title to the work, but before I address that there are a few loose ends: one, the examination of the sculpture with torch and magnifying glass, perhaps the team at Bankfield might be able to take a closer look at their version to check for a signature; the other, might they also look through biographies of Edward Akroyd: Articles in the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, specifically 1948, 1987, and possibly 2010, and a biography ‘Akroyd’, by Roy Ellwood in 2019. All of these will be more accessible to them than to other contributors. Any possible references to a visit to Italy by the Akroyds (I have found no reference to European travel at all, so far), or to their purchases would be helpful, at least in creating an ante quem / post quem.
As Gori moved to Paris, and began exhibiting there in 1902, the sculpture under discussion almost certainly dates from his Italian period, and from before Edward Akroyd’s death in 1887 (hence an expansion of Gori’s active dates). This also no doubt explains why the title has not come up in French exhibition lists, and accounts for a number of early suggestions that the work was both Italian and French ‘in feel’.
He may have produced a later version of this work in Paris, as the example Marcie found is inscribed "A. Gory Paris"
The Cupid attributed to Gori linked above and dated 1895 was made in Florence, suggesting he did not leave Italy before 1895. That would mean anything earlier than 1895 was part of his Italian phase.
Could the missing image for this work please be restored?
If the name in the artist's field is to be left as Affortunato Gori, a note should be added to the Art UK entry like "The artist also used the given name Fortunato and the surname Gory." This is necessary for search purposes. Another option would be to use "Affortunato Gory (Fortunato Gori)" in the artist's field, which is what I would favour.
Before closing this discussion, the standard reference for Italian sculpture of this period, Panzetta's "Nuovo dizionario degli scultori italiani dell'Ottocento e del primo Novecento," to which I do not have current access, should be checked for this sculptor. I assume it would be available at the NAL or a comparable library.
As for the missing image, the actual Art UK entry for this work has multiple images of it, so I don't know why it's gone from AD.
I repeat my suggestion that, for search purposes, a note be added to the Art UK entry like "The artist also used the given name Fortunato and the surname Gory." The work itself should be dated as latter 19th century or c. 1880s or "1886 or earlier."
The problem of the missing image has been reported to our software company as it can't be fixed by Art UK. It seems to be a bug and will be dealt with as part of our maintenance schedule.
The variations in the artist's name have been noted in the biography but have not updated at the time of writing.
Since the sculpture can be no later than 1886, the sculptor would have been born no later than the 1860s. Pending further data, such as from someone checking Alfonso Panzetta's "Nuovo dizionario degli scultori italiani dell'Ottocento e del primo Novecento," it's probably better to say simply (d. 1925) rather than (before 1886–1925).
This in-depth discussion is ready to close: an artist has been found, and a title suggested as an improvement:
A Nymph discovering an Infant, c. 1885-6
Affortunato Gori (Fortunato Gory) (d. 1925)
With thanks to Meagan Blyth and most particularly Marcie Doran, to Jacinto Regalado for persistence and to Pieter van der Merwe for a summation of the sculptor’s career.
Apparently, this is the only known work by this artist in the Art UK database, and presumably the only known piece by him in a British public collection. Perhaps, at a suitable moment, it can be posted on Art UK's Twitter site.