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December 12, 2016, 03:08 PM

Why collect sculpture from the Grand Tour?

By Alex Puddy

Left to right: 18thC copy of the Ostia bronze bull, carved marble Dancing Faun c1900, early 19thC Marcus Aurelius [photo AH

Marcus Aurelius detail [photo AH
Ostian Bull [photo AH
Dionysus After original bronze excavated 1862 in Pompeii, sometimes also known as Narcissus [photo AH

Gloucestershire, UK - To collect neo-classical sculpture is both to reconnect with the antique past and a continuation of a journey taken from the mid-17th century onward, known as 'The Grand Tour'. This rite of passage for mainly, but not exclusively, English gentlemen was undertaken with a bear-leader (guide) to complete an education by traveling through France to Paris and or Germany, and over the Alps to see the Cities and sites of Italy; the most important being Venice, Florence, Rome and latterly Naples, with some, when treaties allowed, continuing on to Greece.

Rome, however, was the prime destination in relation to sculpture and a chance to see and also try to purchase great works that had been and were being excavated from for example Hadrian's Villa. More typically, however, would be the discovery at the end of the 18th century in the old Roman port of Ostia of a fine marble bull, a copy being made in bronze soon after specifically for the grand tourist to purchase and add to the all-important collection of sculpture, paintings, books, coins and medals, destined to furnish the grand houses of Europe and the Americas. A copy of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius would have also been high on the shopping list being the only large 'unburied' Roman bronze to survive.

Replicas of the many excavated classical models were available bespoke or ready-made for export. To add to this canon the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum brought forth many treasures, with one of the most popular models, Dionysus (the ancient greek god of wine aka Bacchus), being excavated in 1860 and subsequently reproduced by Neapolitan foundries. One such foundry, Chiurazzi being the most prominent, produced a catalogue listing over one hundred classical sculptures available in both bronze and marble to satisfy the most ardent collector. These classic models endure and form an all important part of our cultural identity with every sculpture telling a different story, a story linked to our shared European cultural history, but this is a history that can be given form in the shape of fine sculpture in many materials, at a price level that you choose.

Written by Alex Puddy of Architectural Heritage

Architectural Heritage Ltd

Story Type:  Feature

ID: 98051

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