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.
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.